What Cycling Made Me Realise About Myself.

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Having commuted to work on bike for the past year and a half has led to not only better fitness and emotional wellbeing but also a realisation about myself; I’m becoming the kind of person I want to be.

I’m now acting like someone who gets on their bike and cycles for an hour to get to work. I’m now behaving like someone who cycles through wind and rain and afterwards laughs about having made a new definition of the word ‘wet’.

When I started cycling, I expected things like improved sleep, and less crankiness — what a bonus; what I didn’t expect was how my sense of self would change. I’ve realised that, yes, I can be determined when I want to; I can persevere. In a nutshell, and as corny as it sounds: I’m seeing myself in a new light.

A recent story in the Guardian talked about beginner cyclists reporting an improved sense of wellbeing; amen to that. And eighteen months on, those good feelings keep coming every time I get on my bike.

I’ve just read a book called Atomic Habits. As self-help books go, it’s definitely up there, in my opinion. Every time you do something that’s good for you, your health, your career, etc., you’re casting a vote for the type of person you want to be.

I really like that.

Until next time,

Petra

https://www.msn.com/en-gb/news/uknews/investing-in-cycling-pays-off-but-ministers-are-ignoring-the-evidence/ar-BBZUoAg?ocid=spartandhp

How Cycling Changed My Outlook On Life

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I started cycling about a year and a half ago. Mostly as a means of getting about. I was beginning to feel like I was being held hostage by bus and train companies whose services are sometimes late or, on a few occasions, don’t arrive at all.

Then, once I’d started cycling, I realised how much I was enjoying it. And I found myself pedalling along with a new sense of freedom and accomplishment, and a grin (out of joy, not pain) on my face.

I began arriving at work, red-faced and sweaty, yes (what do you expect after an hour’s ride?) but feeling good. Buzzing. That expression ‘water off a duck’s back’ suddenly made sense. That’s how I felt. As if nothing was worth getting uptight about.

I felt like I could take on whatever the day had to offer, without self-doubt getting in the way. Just a Zen-like expression of contentment on my face. Or so I like to imagine.

Truth is, looking serene with a face the colour of beetroot (and don’t forget ‘helmet head’) is highly unlikely; but hey, it’s a small price to pay in view of the benefits. (And my face colour does return to normal, eventually.)

To prevent funny looks from my colleagues, I keep deodorant and a packet of baby wipes (who knew they were so good at getting rid of sweat odour?) in my locker, and I have a change of clean clothes in my rucksack.

Once I’ve wiped myself down and changed clothes, I’m as good as new, and still buzzing. Which makes sense because exercise makes the body release endorphins, so called feel-good hormones; plus, levels of the stress hormone cortisol are reduced.

Pre-bike days, I don’t ever recall getting to work feeling that good. In contrast, I’d often arrive bad-tempered about something. I think I was walking around in a semi-permanent state of irritation. The weather (it’s the UK, after all), late buses/trains, noisy neighbours, take your pick.

Now, a year and a half later, although I’m in no way immune to being stressed out on occasion, I feel that little bit more balanced, positive and a tad stronger, mentally. And physically, I feel fitter than I ever did in my 20s or 30s.

And long may it continue. Here’s to cycling.

Until next time,

Petra

 

 

Why You Should Never Stop Moving

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We live longer than ever before. Gone are the days when people in their fifties or sixties were considered old. Mind you, to anyone below twenty, forty-odd probably seems ancient.

You’d think living longer is good news. And I think it is. But not if those extra years are spent living with poor health, whether mental or physical. Granted, some things, like your genetic makeup, you don’t have much say over. Although there is some science turning that on its head, too.

But some things you can control: the food you eat, whether you exercise or not, getting enough sleep, and learning to take a more balanced view on life. Yes, I know: not always easy. And none of these are guarantees for long, disease-free lives.

But they can help to increase your chances of living a healthier and more stress-free life as you get older. And if illness and disability does strike, with a healthier and more nourished body and mind, you are more likely to be able to deal with whatever challenge comes your way.

Take exercise. It doesn’t have to mean joining a gym, if that’s not your thing. There’s shedloads of evidence that walking, for example, is hugely beneficial, not just for physical health but for mental wellbeing, too. In fact, regular walking can even enhance your cognitive skills. What’s not to like?

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A year ago I bought myself a road bike. Mainly because I was getting peeved with public transport (I don’t drive.). Over the years, I must have spent many hours at stations and bus stops waiting for delayed buses/trains, whilst paying for the privilege. No more.

In the last twelve months, I’ve cycled to work on average two to three times a week (about 8 miles or 12 kilometres each way). And it makes me feel good whilst doing me good. And the sense of freedom I get is priceless.

And when everyone else is stuck in traffic (which happens a lot in these parts), there I am, whizzing past in my Hi-Viz gear with a slightly smug grin on my face.

The point is, I’ve found something that works for me. And you have to do the same. If you don’t enjoy it, chances are you won’t stick with it for long. So find something that makes you look forward to doing it. Whatever it is. I know I look forward to getting on my bike tomorrow.

Use your own home as your private gym. You don’t need special equipment. Or fancy clothing. Tins of tomatoes can double up as dumbbells. Use the edge of a chair to do tricep dips. Or spend a few minutes marching on the spot, just long enough to get your heart rate up.

I brush my teeth standing one-legged, just to practice my balance. Sometimes I’ll do squats. No doubt a funny sight but, hey, it works for me.

My point is, exercise doesn’t have to be a big deal. It doesn’t need to cost a bean. It doesn’t need to be done in a special place, or with specific equipment. Or done for hours on end. All it needs is YOU.

And if you’re stuck for ideas, check out YouTube — there’s lots of exercises. Pick out what works for you and make it your own.

Try and see yourself ten, twenty, or whatever, years from now, feeling as fit and healthy as possible and enjoying your life the best you can. Because I believe we all owe ourselves that much. And you get to set a great example to those around you.

Remember: we weren’t built to sit still. We’re designed to move.

Until next time,

Petra

References: https://psychcentral.com/news/2010/08/27/walking-is-good-brain-exercise/17326.html

Try This One Simple Thing For Better Health (And Maybe Even A Longer Life)

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Yesterday,  a man named Carl Mattson celebrated his birthday. Like many others, he might’ve had some friends over. Maybe there was birthday cake, flowers and a present, too.

But Carl is not just any other person. He’s officially the oldest person in Sweden. Looking at an image of him, I’d have guessed this sprightly-looking gent to be not a day over eighty. He’s 111.

His answer to the usual ‘what’s your secret?’: ‘Don’t overeat. Eat about half of your meal.’

I don’t want to  promote waste and tell people to bin their food, but I think he’s on to something. And he’s not the only one. The people of the Japanese island of Okinawa — best known for their longevity — have a phrase for it: Hara Hachi Bu, or ‘eat until you’re eighty percent full’.

No doubt there’s more involved in reaching a ripe old age than just not overeating, with your health fairly intact. Genetics, for example. But lots of studies show that overeating is, indeed, very bad for your health.

Many people, myself included, overeat. Mostly because it tastes good. And also because you tend to overestimate your hunger — you ‘eat with your eyes’. Sometimes hunger is confused with being peckish, or bored.

And once you’ve eaten, it takes about twenty minutes for your brain to register that you’re full. So, by the time you’ve devoured that second portion, you feel sick and curse yourself for being greedy.

And if the contents of your fridge doesn’t tempt you, a key stroke or screen swipe can have whatever your stomach desires delivered to your door before you can say ‘egg-fried rice’.

Food is everywhere, twenty-four seven. And much of it lacks nutrients while being chockful of calories, leading to a perverse paradox where you can be overweight yet malnourished.

Your body’s a bit like your car. Put the wrong fuel in the tank and it won’t work very well. And sooner or later it might break down.

So make sure to fuel yourself properly. The Okinawans don’t just eat until they’re eighty percent full, their diet is based on plant foods, with very little animal protein, such as pork and fish.

How do you know you’re eighty percent full? Well, one way is to stop eating when you feel satiated. Satiety is that feeling that you’re no longer hungry; it comes before the feeling of being stuffed. It’s a feeling of just enough. Or as people back home in Sweden would say, lagom.

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So, if you’re someone who overeats, try that or put a bit less on your dinner plate than you normally would. Yes, I know, that does require a teeny bit of willpower. Especially when you’re famished.

And to prevent waste, take any leftovers to work the next day.

Then once you’ve eaten, remember to give your brain time to catch up. Chances are that twenty minutes later you’ll feel satisfied. And maybe even a tad more alert. You might even find yourself skipping over the usual I’m-so-full-cum-beached-whale impersonation routine.

Obviously, people suffering from diabetes or eating-related disorders should not experiment with this.

* A note about Okinawa: with several fast-food outlets on the island these days, the healthier Hara Hachi Bu way of eating is sadly something that’s now mostly the preserve of the older generation.

Check out this link for more info: https://nutritionfacts.org/video/the-okinawa-diet-living-to-100/

Until next time,

Petra

 

 

 

 

 

How To Slow Down Skin Aging

 

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Many of you think wrinkly skin is a consequence of aging. As inevitable as that extra candle on your birthday cake every year, right?

Wrong. Lines and wrinkles have little to do with aging, but a lot to do with exposure to sunlight. (There are, of course, other factors as well. Diet, lifestyle and genetics to name three, but this post will focus on sunlight.)

Think about it. Most, ahem, mature adults have smoother and more line-free skin on the parts of their bodies that are not usually exposed to the sun. Coincidence? No.

In previous posts, I’ve mentioned free radicals and how they’re responsible for aging our cells, and ultimately, us.

And that’s what happens when sunlight hits your skin: it triggers a blast of free radicals. While damaging your cells’ DNA in the process, bad enough on its own, it leads to skin losing its elasticity, becoming thinner. While those may sound like mostly cosmetic changes, the worst-case scenario has got to be skin cancer.

And as if that’s not enough, damaging enzymes are also released, causing an inflammatory reaction. Inflammation, as you may recall from my ‘mushroom’ post, particularly the chronic variety, is an underlying element of most western diseases.

According to Cancer Research UK, getting sunburned just once every two years can triple the risk of getting malignant melanoma, or skin cancer.

Now, that’s scary, when I think back to my teenage years and early twenties when having a tan ranked pretty high on my list of priorities. Sunscreen, what sunscreen?

I vaguely remember someone suggesting cooking oil; apparently you’ll tan quicker! (Please, please, don’t try that!) Which wouldn’t have worked for me, anyway. The times in my life I’ve had a proper tan I can count on one hand. I burn.

So, now I wear SPF all year round, come rain or shine. That’s right. Even on a drab and rainy Tuesday in November. The sun emits UVA and UVB radiation even on cloudy days.

So, anyway, where was I? Oh yes. Before anyone says anything: yes, we all need a certain amount of sun exposure to get our daily dose of vitamin D.

And many of us that live in northern Europe are deficient in this vitamin and would likely benefit from supplementing (still debated among experts, as so many other things).

So, no, I’m not advocating sitting indoors with curtains drawn and hoodie up.

But do take care when out in the sun. According to those in the know, as little as fifteen minutes’ exposure could be all you need to top up with that essential vitamin D.  Per day, that is.

After that, do put on some sunscreen. And make sure you get one with both UVA and UVB protection: one causes sunburn and the other goes deeper into the skin, causing aging.

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Until next time,

References: Clayton, P. (2004). Health Defence (2nd edition). Aylesbury: Accelerated Learning Systems Ltd.

https://www.cancerresearchuk.org/about-cancer/causes-of-cancer/sun-uv-and-cancer/how-does-the-sun-and-uv-cause-cancer

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Here’s Why You Need to Eat More Mushrooms (part 2)

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So, where were we? Oh yes, I ended my last post gushing over ET, found in mushrooms. Not ET ‘Phone Home’, obviously. But ET — or Ergothioneine — the antioxidant.

And how it’s able to get into the cell’s energy factory where it cleans up the mess caused by free radicals, the bad guys resulting from energy production.

And oxidation in the mitochondria causes… you got it, Sherlock. Aging. Think wrinkles, impaired memory, to name but two.

But our favourite fungi are so much more than mere one-trick ponies. (Yeah, I know they’re mushrooms, not ponies. Sheesh! But it sounds good. Okay?)

Pyrogallol,  a nutrient found in all sorts of mushrooms acts as an anti-inflammatory.  Great news, I hear you say, as inflammation is linked to all the common diseases: cancer, dementia, diabetes, heart disease, plus others.

And there’s more. Those clever scientists have also found that mushrooms help boost our immune system. And no, you don’t need to eat gallons of them.

Studies show that just a cup a day of the humble button mushroom for one week results in fifty percent more antibodies (they’re the good guys fighting your corner against bacteria and viruses).  Fifty percent!

Pass the shiitakes, please.

Until next time,

Oh, and please visit the site below for references and more info:

https://nutritionfacts.org/video/boosting-immunity-while-reducing-inflammation/

 

 

 

Here’s Why You Need To Eat More Mushrooms

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Mushrooms seem to me to be an understated food. I had no idea how great they are until just recently.

I know they taste great sautéed in a little butter, pinch of salt and pepper, on a piece of wholegrain toast. Yummy.

Which brings back memories of autumnal afternoons spent foraging for chanterelles in the woods back home. Then off home to cook them… But I digress.

Mushrooms are… wait for the drum roll… the only plant food to produce vitamin D when exposed to sunlight. And vitamin D, as we know, helps keep ’em ole bones strong.

And for those calorie-conscious folks out there: six medium-sized button mushrooms contain roughly 22 calories.

Being a fan of antioxidant-rich foods, mushrooms must surely come with some of those. And they do. Namely Ergothioneine. Or ET, for short.

If asked to name foods with antioxidants in them, most of us will say things like: berries, citrus fruits, peppers, green tea, etc. The usual suspects.

But mushrooms. Who knew? Let’s just say they’ve gone up more than a notch in my estimation. But there’s more.

Remember my last post on aging and free radicals? And I spoke about mitochondria, our little cellular power plants where energy from the food we eat is turned into a form the body can use.

Well, listen to this: ET is one of two antioxidants that can get into the mitochondria. And once inside, it helps clean up some of the mess caused by oxidation. How cool is that?

There’s so much more to tell you, so I’ll post a Part 2 on this topic shortly.

Until then

https://www.besthealthmag.ca/best-eats/nutrition/health-benefits-mushrooms/