There are many ways that you could try to make a positive impact on your health and well-being. But which of those changes are worthwhile and will result in the most bang for the buck? We know most people in the United States can’t seem to manage or find the time to exercise on a regular basis. The number one reason that is still given for not exercising at all or exercising inconsistently is “lack of time.” We know that even best exercise prescription and nutrition plan will not elicit change if they are not consistently followed over a set period of time. So where should we look and what advice should we follow? Here is compelling research that says monitoring three specific areas: girth measurements, daily steps, and sugar intake will prevent adverse health outcomes. According to the Canadian Institute for Health Information, “health outcomes are changes in health that result from measures or specific health care investments or interventions.”
Benefits of Periodic Girth Measurements
“What gets measured gets managed” ~ Peter Drucker
To truly understand something, you must be able to measure it. You know an exercise plan is working if like in this case, girth measurements are reduced, the number of steps increase and the grams of added sugar decrease over time. But to know this you need to measure it. Take a waist and hip measurement, then divide the waist number into the hip number and you have your waist-to-hip ratio (WHR). This is a very important number to start monitoring. If you were going to bypass this and were to pick just one number, then men should choose the waist measurement and women should focus on hips. Easy enough.
The size of your waistline may be the key to a long life, according to a study conducted by the Mayo Clinic that involved nearly 13,000 Americans who were followed for about 14 years. Lead researcher of the study, Francisco Lopez-Jimenez, said that people who are of normal weight, but who have a high waist-to-hip ratio have an even higher risk of death than people who are considered obese, based on BMI alone. The risk of cardiovascular death was almost three times higher, and the risk of death from all causes was two times higher in people of normal weight with central obesity, compared with those with a normal body mass index and normal WHR. See what a healthy WHR score is and to find out more please watch the video below.
Benefits of Walking
Research shows that a total amount of about 150 minutes (2 hours and 30 minutes) a week of moderate-intensity aerobic activity (or 75 minutes of vigorous activity), such as brisk walking, consistently reduces the risk of many chronic diseases and other adverse health outcomes (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention). One of the easiest ways to begin monitoring this is by wearing a pedometer. The next step is to increase your number of daily steps up to 10,000 steps a day. Here is a good review on pedometers from pedometerreviewdepotdotcom. As you build up to this number you can also begin monitoring the number of flights of stairs you climb each day. Research from the Harvard Alumni Study found that men who average at least eight flights a day enjoy a 33% lower mortality rate than men who are sedentary — and that’s even better than the 22% lower death rate men earned by walking 1.3 miles a day. Strong scientific evidence shows that physical activity reduces the risk of premature death from the leading causes of death, such as heart disease and some cancers. This effect is remarkable in two ways:
According to Physical Activity Guidelines, only a few lifestyle choices have as large an effect on mortality as does physical activity. It has been estimated that people who are physically active for approximately 7 hours a week have a 40 percent lower risk of dying early than those who are active for less than 30 minutes a week. Studies also demonstrate substantially lower death and injury rates when people do 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic physical activity a week such as walking.
One 10-year study of 229 postmenopausal women randomly assigned two groups of women to either walk at least one mile a day or to continue normal activities. At the end of the trial, the walkers enjoyed an 82% lower risk of heart disease. A second study, a meta-analysis of 48 trials in 8,946 patients, showed that moderate exercise — that typically included walking or riding a stationary bicycle for 30 minutes three times a week — “produced a 26% reduction in the risk of death from heart disease and a 20% reduction in the overall death rate.” I guess Hippocrates was right some 2,400 years ago when he stated “Walking is a man’s (and women’s) best medicine.”
Benefits of Decreasing Added Sugar Intake
By focusing on this one small adjustment – of cutting back on added sugar – you could end up seeing significant changes in terms of how you look and feel. To help hold yourself accountable, remember to take a baseline WHR. Regular binging on too much sugar can be harmful to your body and energy level for many reasons. Eating too much added sugar throughout the day results in frequent spikes in your blood sugar level. This in turn releases the hormone insulin by way of the pancreas and in turn insulin levels stay elevated for longer periods of time and this can eventually promote fat storage. As you can see from the diagram below, this is not something you want happening on a regular basis.
The latest research (JAMA Internal Medicine, 2014) continues to demonstrate that high levels of added sugar can among other things, increase the risk for cardiovascular disease.
Study results indicate that the average percentage of daily calories from added sugar increased from 15.7 percent in 1988-1994 to 16.8 percent in 1999 to 2004 and decreased to 14.9 percent in 2005-2010.
As you can see there is strong evidence to start focusing, if you’re not already, on monitoring girth measurements (WHR), increasing your daily steps and cut back on processed sugar. You can bet that if you’re consuming the majority of your calories from alcohol, eating at fast-food joints, take-out, or from cans/boxes/packages then you’re taking in too much added sugar. More than 80% of these types of foods contain very high levels of added sugar! During the next three days read all food labels and try staying below 30 grams of added sugar/day for B/L/D and any snacks.