The pandemic has had far-reaching effects on our health. Working from home and not moving as much, indulging in comfort foods, and not having places to go or people to see has made weight management a much harder hurdle to clear even for the relatively healthy person. Reframing our approach to exercise and eating can help counter those pandemic pounds. Here are four ways to reverse this sedentary trend.
No. 1: Squeeze more activity into your day.
Sitting is now deemed to be just as dangerous to our health as smoking. Spending long periods of time at your desk and not moving can lead to fatigue, eye strain, neck pain, swelling in the legs, and even hemorrhoids. Studies have found that a sedentary lifestyle increases the risk of chronic diseases such as heart disease, diabetes and obesity. Sitting leads to weight gain because less energy is expended when we sit, meaning we burn fewer calories. We also tend to snack more. Adding little bursts of activity, such as jumping jacks, doing the stairs, going for a quick walk will help to burn calories, improve blood flow and energize your mind and body. If you are stuck in back-to-back virtual meetings, try these exercises, which can actually be done from your desk:
Chair Triceps Dips: Scoot to the front of a stationary chair, with both hands facing forward. Place palms flat on the chair, bend your elbows straight back, and lower yourself straight down several inches, keeping your back as close to the chair as possible. Then straighten your arms to rise back to start.
Desk Push Ups: Stand or sit back a few feet from your desk. Place your palms on the edge of your desk a little wider than shoulder-width. Lower yourself down toward your desk, keeping your core tight. Then push back up until arms are straight, but not locked.
Chair Squats: Try to bust these out between meetings or during long phone calls. All you have to do is stand up from your chair, lower your body back down, stopping right before you sit back down. Keep your weight in your heels to work those glutes. Then stand back up again.
Calf Raises: These exercises are great for improving circulation and preventing ankle swelling and they can be done multiple times throughout the workday. Stand up behind your chair and hold on for support. Raise your heels off the floor until you are standing on your toes. Slowly lower yourself back to the floor.
No. 2: Add a prebiotic to your probiotic routine.
Probiotics offer a wide range of health benefits. They’re best known for their ability to promote gut and immune health, but there is also mounting evidence that they can help with weight management, especially when combined with a prebiotic.
Several strains of probiotics in both the Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium family have been shown to help reduce weight and belly fat. Lactobacillus gasseri appears to be one of the most effective. Research suggests that probiotics help by promoting the release of appetite-reducing hormones, helping reduce the number of calories you absorb from food, as well as potentially reducing inflammation, which can drive obesity.
Prebiotics are dietary fibers that nourish probiotics. Essentially, they are food for good bacteria. High fiber foods like asparagus, bananas, green onions, garlic, soybeans and artichokes contain prebiotics. However, most people don’t eat enough of these foods consistently to realize their benefits. Studies have found that prebiotic fibers can support weight management by promoting satiety (improving the feeling of fullness), while also supporting regular bowel movements and improving the bioavailability of minerals.
Taking a prebiotic and probiotic combination supplement, such as the Pro+ Synbiotic is a good way to get the benefits of weight management, gut and immune health. This particular supplement comes in an easy-to-take chewable tablet and contains 2 grams of BioEcolians, a proprietary a-gluco-oligosaccharide prebiotic designed to support microbiome diversity for improved digestive health, better immune response including killing pathogenic bacteria in the gut, as well as reducing constipation, improving stool consistency, reducing bloating discomfort, and enhancing satiety while reducing body weight and abdomen fat. Finding a well-researched, quality supplement is critical, especially when we are talking about probiotics, which are live bacteria. Probiotics and prebiotics are not supplements you want to just casually purchase at a drug store. It’s important to do your research and purchase from reputable companies. I discuss more of the benefits of probiotics and prebiotics at www.probiotics.com where I serve as a medical advisor and can answer your questions about gut health.
No. 3: Use the Glycemic Index when meal planning.
The glycemic index measures how slow or fast a carbohydrate-rich food breaks down into sugar and raises blood sugar levels. Foods with a low glycemic index breakdown more slowly and have a more steady impact on blood glucose levels. This is important because keeping blood sugar levels stable will help to control hunger and cravings. Foods low in the glycemic index are high-fiber whole grains, leafy greens, beans, legumes, berries, apples and sweet potatoes. When planning meals opt for high fiber carbohydrates, as they tend to be lower on the glycemic index. Adding protein and healthy fats to your meal will slow the rate of digestion of carbohydrates, resulting in a lower overall glycemic response and this is a good thing when you’re trying to keep energy levels high and curb hunger and cravings. Eating protein-rich foods also helps to raise metabolism so you burn more calories.
No. 4: Sleep more to lose more.
During sleep our body is actually busy repairing, regenerating and producing vital hormones that regulate many body processes, including appetite and metabolism. It is well-established fact that a lack of sleep is associated with many adverse health effects, including increased risk of heart disease, cancer and even obesity. Research has found that a lack of sleep increases the levels of a hormone called ghrelin, which is involved in appetite regulation. Increased ghrelin levels can increase appetite. Levels of another hormone, called human growth hormone (HGH), are reduced when we don’t get enough sleep. HGH is involved in regulating metabolism, so when levels are lowered, this can reduce metabolism. In a study with more than 8,000 people, those who slept five hours per night were 73% more likely to become obese than those getting seven to nine hours of sleep. So for better appetite and weight control, do not skimp on sleep. Lack of sleep also affects our ability to make good dietary decisions. Left to our own devices, many of us end up snacking on unhealthy foods and binging.
Incorporating these four simple strategies into your new routine can help you shake off that sedentary lifestyle and make a big difference in how you look and feel.
Biography: Sherry Torkos, B.Sc.Phm., R.Ph., is a pharmacist, author and health enthusiast with a passion for prevention. Sherry graduated with honors from the Philadelphia College of Pharmacy and Science in 1992. Since that time she has been practicing holistic pharmacy in the Niagara region of Ontario. Her philosophy of practice is to integrate conventional and complementary therapies to optimize health and prevent disease. Sherry has won several national pharmacy awards for providing excellence in patient care. As a leading health expert, she has delivered hundreds of lectures to medical professionals and the public. Sherry has authored 18 books and booklets, including, “The Canadian Encyclopedia of Natural Medicine,” “Saving Women’s Hearts,” and “The Glycemic Index Made Simple.”