Tag Archives | health

How to Live to 100: Nine Healthy Blue Zone Habits

They’re known as the Blue Zones: Areas around the world with the highest concentrations of centenarians (people who live to be 100+ years old). These Blue Zone areas include parts of Japan, Mexico, Greece, Italy, Costa Rica, and even Southern California.

In 2005, author Dan Buettner launched a research project seeking to learn the longevity secrets of these vibrant cultures which culminated in the 2008 publication of The Blue Zones: Lessons for Living Longer from the People Who’ve Lived the Longest. Although I haven’t read the book, Buettner’s research has been well documented. His work is a fascinating summary of what makes the world’s healthiest people so healthy.

Despite the fact that people live longer today than ever before, let’s face it: Most of us know very few people who make it even close to 100 years old, much less any full-fledged centenarians. Yet Buettner’s work features people like Francesca Castillo of Costa Rica, who, at 100 years old, still cut her own wood and cleared brush from her yard with a machete.

What sets centenarians apart? Is it purely genetics, or are there specific practices we can identify and adopt to help us increase our own life spans? Here are nine habits which, according to Buettner, centenarians throughout the world’s Blue Zones all share:

People who live in Blue Zones walk... a lot.

1. Walk…a lot. This reminds me of the best selling book, Eat, Move, Sleep by Tom Rath, who points out that sitting more than six hours a day is the most underrated public health problem in America. According to Buettner, Blue Zoners walk practically all day, not because they necessarily want to, but because most of them don’t own a car. While that’s not an option for most people, (something that, in my line of work, I’m grateful for!) Buettner recommends finding a place to live that favors activity and connectivity.

2. Don’t retire. Refocus. Blue Zoners all share a deep sense of purpose for their lives. They greet each day with a compelling reason to live. The traditional definition of “retirement” simply doesn’t exist in their vocabulary.

3. Find a de-stressing ritual. Although faced with the same worries we all have, centenarians manage stress through a variety of daily rituals, such as spending time with friends.

4. Follow the 80% Rule. In the age of super-sized portions, centenarians only eat and drink until they feel 80% full.

5. Eat lots of vegetables. In the Blue Zones, the least expensive and most popular dishes are plant-based. Most eat limited amounts of meat and very little refined sugar and carbohydrates.

6. Drink a little wine. Contrary to popular belief, centenarians, by and large, are not teetotalers, although most drink limited amounts and wine is the drink of choice.

7. Cultivate strong friendships. Blue Zoners are consistently found to have a core group of life long friends who provide stability, intimacy, and support.

8. Be part of a community. There is a strong sense of belonging in Blue Zones; a deep-seated cultural expectation of people caring for one another, often centered around religious faith.

9. Stay married. According to Buettner, a positive, committed relationship adds at least six years to life expectancy.

Here’s a question: What would it mean to the quality of your life–and the strength of your personal brand–if you had the physical, mental, and spiritual capacity to live 100+ years? Which of these nine habits resonate the most with you? Which ones challenge you? I’d love to hear your feedback!

This post was adapted from my 2013 blog post.

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5 Ways Reading Will Make You A Better Version of Yourself

Ever since I was a kid, I’ve been an avid reader. It started with magazines like Time and Sports Illustrated as a teenager, then evolved to include biographies, self-help, the Bible, business books and, occasionally, novels. As a self-described content addict–I even listen to podcasts while mowing the lawn–consistent reading has been an integral part of who I am. And among the many benefits, reading has helped me build my personal brand.

There are few life skills as important to personal development as reading. As author and business consultant Bill Zipp puts it…

Reading forces us to think. Really think. It compels us to consider different—sometimes radically different—perspectives. And reading provides us an inexhaustible resource of ideas and insight, wit and wisdom.

by Josh Felise | unsplash.com

If you’re looking to build your own personal brand, I believe that developing the habit of reading is indispensable. Here are 5 ways reading will propel you on your journey to becoming the best possible version of yourself:

1) Reading is linked to lifetime success.
According to a recent article in the Traverse City Record Eagle by the Education Trust-Midwest, the development of reading skills in elementary school children is vital to their development. “(It is) a predictor of everything from high school graduation and college success to long-term employment.” In other words, if you want your kids to succeed in life, helping them become avid readers is perhaps the single best thing you can instill in them.

2) Reading improves your Emotional Intelligence.
Defined as the ability to identify, understand, and harness your emotions to improve relationships, Emotional Intelligence, or EQ, is responsible for 58% of your success, according to research from TalentSmart. Biographies and novels help provide insights on human nature that, according to many CEO’s, has made them more empathetic and relational—two critical attributes of EQ. I can attest to that; in fact, in an earlier post, I shared how an article on Peyton Manning inspired me to start writing personal thank you notes to my employees, a leadership habit I’ve maintained for years.

3) Reading keeps your brain young and healthy.
Reading produces the same positive benefits to your brain that working out delivers to your body. According to a detailed study reported in Prevention, adults who engaged in reading and other creative or intellectual activities showed a 32 percent slower rate of cognitive decline later in life than those who did not. Another recent study found that older adults who regularly read or play mentally challenging games like chess or puzzles are two and a half times less likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease.

4) Reading increases your influence.
Ask any effective leader and chances are they will share how reading has leveraged virtually every other skill. I have found that my consistent reading habit has helped me develop my writing, speaking and facilitation skills, all of which are important tools of leadership.

5) Reading improves your vocabulary.
Researchers estimate that 5–15% of all the words we learn we learn from reading. If you want to positively influence others, using the right language to cast vision, set direction, and simplify complex issues is critical.

“That sounds great… but I just don’t have the time to read.”

This is the most common excuse whenever the issue of reading comes up. My response, as I share in one of my presentations, is:

Imagine if, on New Years’ Day, I handed you a stack of 16 books with a challenge to read all of them by the end of the year. Chances are, you would either laugh at me or tell me to get serious. But what if, on January 1st, you committed to reading just 15 pages a day, which, depending on the content, might take anywhere from 5 to 20 minutes. Allowing for two weeks off, by year end, you would have read 5,250 pages. And since the average book on Amazon.com is approximately 325 pages, you would have complete all 16 books and even started on a 17th book.

That’s the power of the Slight Edge–an excellent book on habits by Jeff Olson.

It also illustrates a parallel principle: the power of consistency. That is, consistent actions repeated daily. Before I learned this important insight, most of my reading happened on a plane, where I would cram in as much content as I could until the next time I traveled (which wasn’t very often). When I finally started to think in terms of small, incremental actions repeated consistently instead of occasional big moves toward my goals, my reading exploded. Today, I complete between 15 and 25 books a year–in the midst of a pretty busy schedule.

Consistency is one of the most overlooked forces not only in developing a reading habit, but in living the life you really want.

If you want to become the best version of yourself in 2017, reading is one of the surest paths to get there. It will help you develop important qualities that will have a disproportionate impact on every other area of your life.

Question: How many books did you read last year? What would it take for you to double your reading in 2017?

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Five Reasons to Sign up for the FML Winter Games

Ever since I started running more than 25 years ago, I’ve been a dedicated fitness enthusiast, a choice that has added energy, health, and adventure to my life. Along with running, I have enjoyed biking (both mountain and road biking), cross-country skiing, triathalons, and more recently, Crossfit.

And although I’ve enjoyed some more than others, there is one step–one “best practice”–that, in every pursuit, propelled my success, personal growth, and enjoyment.

I signed up for competitions.

As a runner, I entered 5K’s, 10K’s and half marathons. When I turned 30, I completed the New York City Marathon, which was the fulfillment of a lifelong goal. When I discovered mountain biking, I did the Ice Man, one of the most physically demanding endurance events I ever completed. Similarly, when I took up “skate skiing” in my early 40’s, I entered the North American Vasa. And three years ago, when a frustrating battle with achilles tendonitis sidelined me from running, I jumped into Crossfit, a high intensity combination of Olympic Weightlifting, gymnastics, and boot camp-style training. Each of those years, I signed up to compete in the Crossfit Open, an international competition with more than 300,000 athletes.

Regardless of how I finished, I’ve never regretted these experiences. Stepping into the competitive arena, regardless of your skill level, always makes you better.

And this year, despite turning 56 three weeks ago, I’m planning to compete in the first-ever Fit My Life (FML) Winter Games here in Traverse City during the first weekend in February. If you’ve made a commitment to improving your fitness in 2017, then chances are this 2-day competition will also appeal to you! Here are five reasons to participate:

via Fit My Life

1. Develop your confidence. In an earlier post, I reflected on some great advice I received from a mentor, that life begins at the edge of your comfort zone. We don’t grow when we’re comfortable; it is when we push past our self-imposed limits and surprise ourselves that we really progress in life. (You may also want to check out my earlier post on developing a growth mindset).

2. Jumpstart your progress. No matter where you are in terms of your fitness goals, the fact is, signing up for a competition is like having one of those “fast-passes” at Disney World. You will be amazed at how much further and faster you progress as an athlete.

3. Make new friendships with like-minded people. One of the best attributes of Fit My Life (FML) is the sense of community. There are seasoned fitness athletes working out alongside beginners in an encouraging and supportive atmosphere. This kind of encouraging, ‘we’re all in this together’ style of competition really brings out the best in people.

4. There are Beginner and Advanced Categories available. Whether you’re a seasoned fitness fanatic or a total beginner, you’ll be able to compete in a category with people of similar ability and experience.

5. This is more than a competition. Saturday’s festivities will include food, craft beer, and great live music. Celebrate your accomplishment with friends and fellow competitors.

BONUS: Support a local charity! All proceeds from the FML Winter Games event will support Veteran to Veteran, a mentoring program for area Vets.

To be clear, this competition will not be easy–you will be challenged both physically and mentally. But you’ve probably experienced something similar at some point in your life. Maybe it was learning a new skill, dealing with an illness or personal setback, or taking on a challenge you’d never done before. They are difficult when they are happening, but, looking back, we have to admit:
This is where the growth happens.
This is where your self confidence soars.
This is where real fulfillment resides.

If you’re looking to make 2017 your best year ever, discover the rewards of taking a trip outside your comfort zone by signing up for the FML Winter Games.

To register online or simply find out more about the event, visit www.FitMyLifeTraverseCity.com.

Question: What’s the greatest physical or athletic challenge you have encountered? How did you prepare for it, and how did you feel afterwards?

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Five Reasons to Think Twice Before Getting a Flu Shot

It’s late autumn, the traditional start of the cold and flu season, when you see signs promoting flu shots adorning doctor’s offices, walk-in clinics, pharmacies, even big box retailers. As a result, millions of Americans will dutifully roll up their sleeves and trust that this year’s vaccine will keep them healthy throughout the cold winter months.

via stocksnap.io

But is this ubiquitous vaccine all it’s cracked up to be in terms of protecting you from the flu? Furthermore, is receiving an injection like this year after year the wise thing to do for your long term health? While I don’t claim to be an expert in chemistry, medicine, or biology, I can report that I have never received a flu shot and cannot recall ever contracting the flu. And as a student of health and fitness, I’ve discovered that there are plenty of credible reasons to consider other alternatives to optimizing your health than subjecting yourself to repeated injections of toxic chemicals and virus strains grown on living tissue. Here are five:

1. There is little evidence that flu shots actually work. The flu shot is only able to protect against certain strains of the flu, so if you come into contact with a strain—and there are many–that you are not protected from, then you will still get the flu. According to the CDC’s (Center for Disease Control) own website, for example, the 2014-15 flu vaccine was only 19% effective, which means that over 80% of people who received a flu vaccine that year were unprotected from the flu. Worse, according to the data reported by the CDC, since they first recommended that children under 5 receive the flu vaccine just before the 2003-2004 flu season, there has been an average increase of 67% of flu-associated deaths in children. Plus, a 2008 study published in the Lancet found that influenza vaccination was NOT associated with a reduced risk of pneumonia in older people. Unfortunately, the data suggests that getting the flu vaccine gives people a false sense of protection from contracting the flu.

2. The flu vaccine, as well as all other vaccines, contain mercury, a harmful heavy metal that can seriously compromise your health. Vaccines contain a preservative called Thimerosal, which contains mercury. The amount of mercury in a multi-dose flu shot is 250 times higher than what is legally classified as hazardous waste. Even so-called, “Thimerosal-free” vaccines contain enough trace amounts of mercury to be considered toxic by the EPA. Side-effects of mercury toxicity include depression, memory loss, attention deficit disorder, digestive disorder, anxiety, cardiovascular problems, respiratory issues, thyroid and other glandular imbalances, and low immune system.

3. The flu vaccines contain many other toxic or hazardous ingredients, including:

    • Aluminum — a neurotoxin that has been linked to Alzheimer’s disease.
    • Triton x-100 – a detergent.
    • Phenol (carbolic acid) – also found in weed killer.
    • Ethylene glycol (antifreeze)
    • Betapropiolactone – a disinfectant.
    • Formaldehyde – classified as a carcinogen.

4. There is a vast difference between ingesting chemicals through eating or drinking verses injecting them into your bloodstream. Even if it were possible to substantiate claims that trace amounts of mercury (found in some species of fish, for example) and other harmful chemicals are too small to cause any problems, remember that, when we swallow something toxic, our digestive processes act as natural filters that greatly reduce the potency. But when you receive a flu shot, toxins are injected into the muscle and pushed directly into the bloodstream which is far stronger and more harmful. This is something the vaccine manufacturers never bother to point out.

5. There are plenty of safe and effective alternatives to protect us from the flu. With so many potential side effects while only protecting against a small number of strains, the good news is there are some natural remedies you can try that are proven to strengthen your immune system without risk of long term health problems. These include:

    • Getting plenty of vitamin D during the winter months.
    • High dose vitamin C (I take 3,000 – 5,000 mg per day…and I haven’t had a cold in nearly 3 years.)
    • Fish oil, one of nature’s most powerful tools to fight colds and flu.
    • Exercise, which produces natural immune-boosting chemicals throughout your body.
    • Eating plenty of “power-foods” like garlic, berries, and cruciferous vegetables.
    • Eliminate sugar. Few things suppress your immune system like sugary drinks and foods.
    • Reduce stress. The only thing worse than sugar to your immune system is subjecting yourself to frequent anger and stress.
    • Sleep. The more research published on sleep, the more clear the connection between sufficient sleep and a healthy immune system.

via stocksnap.io  via stocksnap.io

I know this is, for some, a controversial topic and I don’t claim to be a public health expert. Neither am I in any way suggesting that no one should ever receive a flu shot. But I am convinced that, for most people, trusting in a vaccine to keep you healthy is a bit of a fallacy. Not only are the real consequences—both short and long term—there are also plenty of good alternatives to injecting toxic chemicals into your bloodstream with, at the very best, a 50/50 chance they will even work.

So before you roll up your sleeve and get that painful needle, think it over. What are your thoughts on the flu vaccine? Have you ever considered that there may be harmful consequences from getting a flu shot? Or do you think it has helped you stave off sickness during the winter months? I’d love to get your comments.

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