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I'm sometimes astounded by how much we don’t know. European and American eels, which are seen in fresh water by the millions in those regions, breed mysteriously thousands of kilometres away in the salt water of the North Atlantic. Scientists still don't know exactly precisely where and how despite tagging them with satellite transmitters, acoustic devices, and studying sonar images of the ocean!
"Grounders" believe that we can absorb electrons from the ground, which provides an antioxidant effect. Being in touch with nature helps our soul, even if we don’t absorb electrons - see item #2.
How long you can balance on one leg is associated with your longevity. Researchers found a dramatic association between early mortality and poor balance. But you can beat it - see item #1.
Here are the topics I have chosen for you to help you live longer better:
⭑ Check your longevity in 10 seconds, no gadgets required ✔
⭑ Improved sleep by walking in the park, barefoot? Perhaps ✔
⭑ Reducing our background level of inflammation is always smart. Here's how
⭑ This one at-home exercise improves your joints, coordination and strength
Somewhat unnerving is a study published by the British Journal of Sports Medicine in June 2022 which found that people over 51 who are unable to stand on one leg for 10 seconds have a significantly higher risk of premature death
Here’s what to do: (Stand near support if necessary.) Keeping your arms to your sides, lift your left leg and place your foot on your right calf. Balance that way for 10 seconds. Then repeat, reversing leg positions.
⇒ If you can’t do it, don't panic. You probably tried too hard.
But bear in mind that people who failed the balance test died at a rate 84% higher during the study period of 7 years than those who passed the balance test. This is after adjusting for a participant’s age, underlying conditions, and weight.
Also bear in mind that poor balance is an indicator, not a cause, of reduced longevity. The cause is the degradation and impairment of our muscular strength and coordination. Good balance requires as much brain activation as brawn.
What it means for us: One way to improve our neuromuscular coordination is to simply repeat the balance test daily. Over time you will improve as your brain and muscles tune-up. Good balance requires as much brain as brawn.
You can do more, with these two simple movements:
"Tai Chi" sway: set your feet wide, toes pointing slightly outwards, elbows bent and hands in front of chest, and sway gently right and lower, and then the same to the left. Do 5 to 10 each side. As you get stronger gently go lower each side. Maintain an upright stance while moving from side to side.
Heel to toe: Hands out wide to the side, shoulders back, place the heel of one foot in front of the toe of the other. Walk slowly forward this way concentrating on maintaining your balance. As you get better (1) make the movement slower, and (2) bring your arms down closer to your side. You can do this as a variation while out walking. Level-ups: (1) hold a dumbbell in each hand, (2) hold a dumbell with both hands in front of your chest. Walk 20 to 30 steps forward; take a break; do it again.
Just regularly throwing and catching a ball and kicking a ball will also vastly improve your balance.
Being grounded in life can mean different things, such as having a "stress can be enhancing" mindset, or having your feet on the ground - literally.
"Grounding" is a popular biohack, and I have an open mind about it. Some practitioners claim that grounding can help boost energy levels, manage stress, and improve sleep.
I associate most of those with just being outdoors with nature. I've no doubt that connecting with nature improves our mood and reduces stress.
Grounders go further. They literally connect with nature by doing things like walking barefoot on grass and touching the soil with their hands.
They believe that through grounding, people can absorb electrons from the ground which provide an antioxidant effect, can reduce free radicals, and may improve biological rhythms. This leads lead to improved sleep, a more positive mood, and reduced inflammation and stress.
⇒ I don’t mind the theory, I tried myself for a while by walking 3km barefoot several times a week. I didn't keep it up because it was more stressful avoiding sharp rocks on the walking track than I was gaining by the grounding. I wrote about it:
What this means for us: If you think it is an interesting idea then give it a go. Find a place to walk safely in your bare feet - I still walk on the beach often, in bare feet.
Grounders recommend touching things like soil, grass, sand, gravel and rocks, living plants and trees, and bodies of water for at least 30 minutes a day.
There are now also some technologies, like grounding mats and patches, that mimic the earth’s electrical current. I wouldn't go that far because I think that the magic of grounding lies with nature, not technology.
You can also just ground regularly by standing or stretching and doing mobility work barefoot on grass at your local park. You never know, it might be the genesis of a local grounding group and then you benefit from socialising as well.
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Discussion of Inflammation is a thread that runs through this newsletter. That's because our background level of inflammation increases with age and reduces longevity, yet it can be reduced through exercise and eating healthy foods.
It's also the case that if we already have a high background level of inflammation and are infected by a virulent virus such as the coronavirus then our body will struggle to fight it off.
⇒ Inflammation is a vital part of our body’s defence and repair systems. But chronic inflammation can cause more harm than good.
How can you slow down inflammation? In fact, there’s a lot that you can do.
What this means for us: Two of the most important ways to fight inflammation are by eating the right food and exercising. Here are six ways recommended by Harvard Health:
1. Healthy diet: Eating more kale alone isn’t likely to help much. But eating lots of fruits and vegetables, including kale if you enjoy it, whole grains, healthy fats, and legumes may reduce inflammation and lower the risk for chronic illnesses like diabetes and heart disease.
2. Regular exercise has anti-inflammatory effects on white blood cells and chemical messengers called cytokines. Try for 3 exercise sessions plus walking every day.
3. Maintaining a healthy weight because excess fat in cells stimulates body-wide inflammation which leads to Type 2 diabetes and accelerates inflammation.
4. Manage your stress, because repeatedly triggered stress hormones contribute to chronic inflammation.
5. Quit Smoking.
6. Avoid inflammation-triggering infections by getting vaccinated, getting screened regularly for cancer, and by doing your best to avoid asthma, eczema, or allergic events e.g. take preemptive medication when you can.
04 Squat With Knee Lift and Rotation
Our exercises of the week is... the squat with knee lift and rotation. This one exercise is fantastic for we seniors as the sequence of movements will improve joint stability, increase muscular strength and endurance, and improve balance and coordination.
⇒ It is also a great exercise for toning the thighs, hips, and buttocks - and you can do it at home, no equipment needed.
Pragmatically, doing this exercise regularly helps prevent falls and other injuries.
What this means for us: The basic exercise has less body rotation, you can add more rotation as you feel your stability improving.
- Stand with your feet hip-width apart and your hands clasped softly in front of your chest, with elbows positioned above each knee. Gently rotate your shoulders back and slightly down and hold your back straight.
- Bend your knees to rotate your buttocks backwards and down into a squat as if sitting into a chair. Lower to a comfortable point - somewhere near your thighs being parallel to the floor.
- As you stand back up, raise your right knee while rotating your upper body to the right. Aim to touch your left elbow - coming down - with your right knee - coming up.
- Return to the standing position.
This is one rep. Finish 10 to 15 reps. This completes one set. Optionally, rest 20 seconds, and do one more set.
This video illustrates the basic movement, see at 0:40.
- Keep your spine neutral while your shoulders are down and back.
- Be sure your knees are not too far forward in your exercise, you should be able to see your toes as you squat.
- As you squat, lift your chest as you tend to HINGE your upper body slightly forward.
Make it easier: As you stand up, lift one knee up in front of you without twisting. If this is still too challenging, simply do squats without a knee lift or rotation.
Make it harder: (1) Hold the squat, or knee lift, or both for two to four counts. (2) Increase the rotation as you touch an elbow to the opposite knee.
In case you missed it...
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