⭑ Sardines are the best-kept secret of superfoods ✔ Brain, blood and longevity
⭑ Tuning our circadian rhythm is key to good sleep ✔ Here's how
⭑ Mitochondria - the worker bees of our muscles also protect our brain ✔
⭑ Not ready for lunges? This up-and-over exercise will get you there ✔
All strength to Ukraine 🇺🇦🇺🇦🇺🇦🇺🇦🇺🇦🇺🇦🇺🇦🇺🇦
Get a grip.
Grip strength is associated with longevity, but scientists are just learning why.
It's not because a strong grip helps you live longer, so grip exercises alone are not a path to longevity. It is because your grip strength correlates with indices of sarcopenia, such as respiratory muscle strength, skeletal muscle mass, calf circumference, and gait speed.
Ask your doctor to test your grip strength. If it is below par, you must start rebuilding your muscle mass and strength throughout your body.
Our sleep quality declines as we age, paying attention to the basics can help improve it - see item #2.
Sardines are not your average fish when it comes to longevity, blood health, and brain health - see item #1.
01 A Sardine A Day Keeps The Doctor Away
I love apples, but despite their legendary status for keeping the doctor away, they don't rate as highly as sardines - especially as we age.
Sardines are high in protein, full of natural omega-3 fatty acids, and contain DHA, which supports our brain health, and useful quantities of calcium, potassium, and magnesium.
Some research shows a correlation between eating sardines and longevity due to the presence of these nutrients. You'd be aware of this in relation to the Mediterranean Diet and longevity.
Sardines, according to a 2023 study, have anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties, which help reduce inflammation and protect against oxidative stress in our body. Furthermore, the study found hypotensive effects, meaning sardines help lower our blood pressure.
Additionally, sardines have been shown to enhance insulin action, meaning they improve blood sugar control and potentially delay or prevent the development of type 2 diabetes mellitus.
⇒ Eating sardines is a powerful alternative to fish oil supplements and is supportive of delaying late-onset diabetes.
What this means for you: add sardines to your diet! I plan to do the same.
I quite like mashed sardines on toast, with pepper, lemon and a sprinkle of olive oil.
How about combining sardines with chipotle-lime mayo, red onion, parsley, and lemon juice? If you prefer different flavours, you can substitute chipotle-lime mayo with regular mayo mixed with sriracha and lime juice, or use Dijon mustard instead.
Or just as a nutrient-dense snack with crackers or sliced cucumbers.
Let me know your fav sardine snack.
02 The Simplest Way To Get Better Sleep
If you are having trouble sleeping, the simplest and first thing to try is to ensure your circadian rhythm is properly synchronised. Doing this will reset and optimise your melatonin cycle to give you the best chance of sound sleep.
⇒ Reset your circadian rhythm by getting 20 minutes of sunlight as early in the day as you can. If this is not practical, use a white light therapy lamp.
Artificial white light also works to reset our circadian rhythm, but its effectiveness depends on the specific characteristics of the light. Research confirms that even low-intensity artificial light can reset our clock by using carefully designed LED lights that remove short-wavelength white light, like therapy lamps.
A therapy lamp on Amazon costs about $30 - search "white therapy lamp circadian rhythm" and sort on price from low to high.
What this means for you: The timing of exposure is important. Morning exposure helps you get to sleep and sleep better earlier in the evening.
On the other hand, exposure in the evening will push your sleep cycle later. This means you should avoid bright white light in the evening (although most domestic LED lights don't emit the blue-shifted light which suppresses our sleep).
Ideally, according to research in 2012, one hour of regular morning exposure will shift your sleep time noticeably earlier, up to 2 hours. I expect that you can then maintain your adjusted time with less exposure, e.g. 20 minutes, although I have seen no research confirming this.
Note: we have a decreased response to early morning light compared to when we were younger. I use a therapy lamp on my desk in the morning while working, plus getting out in the sunlight.
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03 Our Mighty Mitochondria Found To Maintain Brain Health
Regular readers will know that I sometimes bang on about the importance of our mitochondria, which can be increased in volume and efficiency through resistance training. I usually discuss this in the context of controlling blood sugar levels and diabetes. It's a topic rarely mentioned by doctors.
A very recent scientific discovery that could be important for all of us who are over 50. Scientists have been studying how well mitochondria in our muscles work, especially after exercise.
They found that you could have up to a 52% lower risk of developing mild cognitive issues, or even dementia, if your mitochondria are functioning at a high level, meaning a high post-exercise recovery rate. Think of it as a gauge for how quickly your cells can recharge after physical activity.
Additionally, higher recovery rates were associated with a 59% reduced likelihood of markers commonly linked with Alzheimer’s disease.
⇒ Poor mitochondrial conditioning may contribute to Alzheimer’s, dementia, and neuroinflammation (which is linked to chronic illnesses).
What this means for you: My top four suggestions:
- Sensible Exercise: Both cardiovascular (HIIT) and strength-training exercises can improve your mitochondrial function. Aim for 3 sessions weekly.
- Eat Right: Foods rich in antioxidants—like berries, nuts, and leafy greens—can help. Also, Omega-3 fatty acids in fish and flaxseeds are beneficial.
- Get Enough Sleep: Aim for 7–9 hours of sleep a night to help your mitochondria function better.
- Manage Stress: Stress isn’t good for your mitochondria, so techniques like deep breathing or meditation can help.
Strength training has the added benefit of building muscle mass and, hence, mitochondria mass.
04 Step Up And Over - When Lunges Are A Step Too Far
Our exercise of the week is... step up and overs.
If you find lunges too challenging, then here is a progression exercise that you can do that will build your capability to take on lunges - the "step up and over". It strengthens your quads (front of thighs), glutes, hamstrings and calves.
⇒ These look innocuous, but they will certainly build your hip strength and help stabilise your body.
What this means for you: Please put something low and steady on the ground, as in the image below:
- Stand behind with your right foot in line with the object's centre.
- Step forward with your right foot and place it in the middle of the object.
- Using your right leg, lift yourself forward and above the object while swinging your left foot forward - hold it low, heel down.
- Hold the heel of your left leg forward of the object and barely off the floor for 2 seconds while maintaining your balance.
- Return to the starting position and repeat.
Watch the video here.
This is good as a progression to lunges and also a valuable daily exercise for runners to help avoid hip injuries.
Level-up: hold a weight in front of your chest or in your outside hand. This increases the counter-resistance required of your core to maintain balance and stimulates your brain to work harder to coordinate your muscles.
Thanks for reading!
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>> My Latest Blog Post: Energise Your Golden Years: Boosting Your Desire to Exercise with Gut-Healthy Foods
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