A moment of Zen

Welcome to the positive corner of the internet. Here’s a daily digest designed to make you healthier in less than 5 minutes....

Welcome to the positive corner of the internet. Here’s a daily digest designed to make you healthier in less than 5 minutes. If you were forwarded this message, you can get the free daily email here.

Today’s Health Upgrade

  • The First Rule of Training

  • A Moment of Zen

  • 8K Is The New 10K

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The First Rule of Training

Have you tried getting in shape before and not seen the results you want? New research on more than 200 studies might have the reason why.

Scientists found that if you’re stressing about optimizing the number of workouts, days per week, or specific exercises, you’re missing the forest from the trees. Consistency and compliance are the most important variables for building more strength and muscle.

The researchers found that the weight you can lift and the number of sets you perform are not the main drivers of muscle growth. First, it’s consistency, and then it’s total volume. In other words, if you did ten sets of 10 reps using 20 pounds (10 reps x 20 pounds x 10 sets = 2000 pounds of total volume), it would be more effective at building muscle than three sets of 3 reps using 100 pounds (3 reps x 100 pounds x 3 sets = 900 pounds of total volume)...assuming the ten reps at 20 pounds was near failure.

While glorifying heavy weights is easy, consistency is most important, and volume pushes your muscles to their limit. If ten reps of 20 pounds are easy, then that won’t force your muscles to work towards their capacity, which means even though you have high volume, you won’t grow. So if you wanted to create a hierarchy of muscle gains, it would be

1. Build consistent habits for training.

2. Push your body as hard as possible at each training session (most people don’t push themselves hard enough, and that’s why they don’t grow).

3. Focus on total volume.

If your goal is increasing strength, the variables change. You’re ability to become stronger is determined by progressively using more weight, the frequency of your training sessions (three times per week appears to be the sweet spot), and exercise order influences muscular strength.

Focus on your habits, make them automatic, and then you can figure out how to push yourself hard enough to see the desired results.

Zen And The Art Of Yoga

If you need to find more calm in the chaos of life, you might want to spend a little more time in a downward dog position.

Several studies suggest that yoga can help you reduce stress and boost your mood.

It appears that yoga provides a prolonged surge of GABA, a neurotransmitter that scientists believe plays an important role in controlling anxiety, stress, and fear.

In one study, people who did one 60-minute yoga session per week boosted their GABA by nearly 30 percent compared to 60 minutes of reading.

Another study found that a single 90-minute yoga session could boost GABA for up to 4 days. And more research suggests that three days of yoga does a better job of elevating mood and reducing anxiety than a similar amount of walking time.

While researchers are not sure why it appears to have a bigger boost than other activities, they speculate that the breathing exercises that are a part of yoga are part of the reason yoga appears to have additional benefits.

If you’re not quite ready for yoga, practice box breathing (which we’ve shared before), which can also reduce stress.

Step 1: Take a deep breath that takes 4 seconds to inhale.

Step 2: Hold your breath for another 4 seconds.

Step 3: Now, take another 4 seconds and breathe out slowly.

Try to repeat this three-step sequence four to six times.

The 10,000 8,000-Step Rule

We’ve mentioned before that the “10,000-step rule” was based on the marketing campaign of an old-school pedometer. But, you might still wonder how many steps you should take to improve your health.

A recent study found that walking 8,000 or more steps a couple of days per week was associated with lower all-cause and cardiovascular mortality. That means walking can extend your life expectancy and improve heart health.

And because something is always better than nothing (remember, the goal is no “zero percent weeks"), the researchers found that walking one or two days per week was associated with a significant improvement.

That’s great news for those of us with super busy schedules. Try walking on the weekend and one during the work week. Or, you can focus on adding more steps to your daily routine by taking the stairs more often, parking farther back in the parking lot, and taking walking breaks throughout the day. We’ve mentioned it before, but scheduling one or two 10-minute walking breaks during the day (put it in your calendar) can make a big difference.

Research suggests that 10-minute walks can also reduce stress and improve focus and creativity. It might not seem like much, but these small steps (literally) add up to significant health improvements.