Most of us, myself included, can’t seem to avoid being inactive for a significant part of the day. When the work we do involves being chair-bound, like responding to emails, writing reports, and attending meetings, it’s difficult to avoid sitting on our bums, often for far longer than we’d like. And this “sitting disease” as scientists call it, is bad for our health. Up to 70 percent of us spend six or more hours a day sitting, and our sedentary ways are linked to an increased risk of type 2 diabetes, and heart disease, as well as breast and colon cancers.
But, there’s a solution - one that requires just minutes a day, and can significantly enhance your health. Researchers in New Zealand assessed a group of 70 normal weight adults, and found that taking a break from sitting every 30 minutes, and performing a brief minute and 40 second burst of exercise, helped decrease blood sugar levels. In fact, blood sugar readings improved even more than in a second test group, who sat for nine hours straight, then exercised for 30 continuous minutes. In addition, compared to one bout of lengthy exercise, short, frequent exercise breaks were more effective at lowering post-meal blood sugar levels, which is important for staving off conditions like type 2 diabetes and metabolic syndrome.
To take advantage of this savvy strategy, try putting the following tips into action:
- Set an alarm to go off every half an hour, as a reminder to stand up and walk in place for a few minutes.
- Keep a jump rope handy, and jump or skip during your “sitting breaks.”
- When talking on the phone, walk around your office or home instead of sitting.
- While watching TV at night, stay active. During each commercial, perform simple exercises you can do right in your living room, like the ones in my metabolism-boosting workout video and belly flattening video.
- If you’re working on the computer, sit while you type, but stand while you read.
In addition to protecting your health, this simple tactic can also improve your circulation, and may even boost you productivity – pretty great payoffs for relatively small changes to your usual routines.
Can’t find time to get to the gym? Slip into your comfy shoes and take a 15 minute stroll after each meal. According to a new study from George Washington University, this habit can help normalize blood sugar levels for up to three hours after eating, and slash the risk of developing type 2 diabetes better than a sustained 45-minute walk.
In the study, scientists recruited healthy adults age 60 and older who were at risk of developing type 2 diabetes due to inactivity and high fasting blood sugar levels. Researchers found that three short post-meal walks, at an easy-to-moderate pace, were as effective as one 45 minute walk at regulating blood sugar over a 24 hour period. What's more, the post-meal walks were found to be more effective in normalizing blood sugar after meals - the "riskiest" time, when blood sugar spikes the most.
To reap the benefits yourself, try out these techniques:
- Build a post-breakfast neighborhood walk into your morning routine
- Spend the last 15 minutes of your lunch break walking, either indoors or outside
- Recruit a family member or neighbor to join you in post-dinner walks
- If you have a canine family member, plan to walk your furry friend after meals whenever possible
- Keep your walking gear, like shoes, a light jacket, and perhaps a flashlight, in a designated location so you can just ‘grab and go’
- Try a new path or route around your neighborhood so your walks feel fun and ‘fresh’
For more about the benefits of walking, check out my previous post: Walking How Do I Love Thee? Let Me Count the Ways
If you’ve ever enjoyed barley soup, you know how hearty and filing this delicious grain is, and it has quite a history. Egyptians buried mummies with necklaces made of this ancient grain. Today, barley remains the world's fourth most important cereal crop after wheat, rice, and corn.
Of all the whole grains, barley packs the most fiber, and it’s rich in vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. Natural substances in barley have also been shown to help reduce cholesterol (even more than oats), control blood sugar, and boost immunity by feeding the friendly or “good” bacteria in your digestive tract.
I included a Garlicky Barley Vegetable Soup recipe in S.A.S.S! Yourself Slim: Conquer Cravings, Drop Pounds and Lose Inches, but barley can also be used as a side dish. Swap it out for brown or wild rice or enjoy it as an oatmeal alternative at breakfast.
Barley can take up to an hour to cook, but if you whip up a larger batch it will last in the fridge for up to a week. Another easy way to take advantage of this healthful whole grain is to look for rolled barley flakes (like Bob’s Red Mill), which cook in the microwave in just 5 minutes. You can also whip barley flakes into a smoothie, fold them into nut butter, or toast them as a topping for fresh or baked fruit, or yogurt.