Lifestyle, Uncategorized

Seven Steps to Reaching Your Goals

goals

Seven Steps to Reaching Your Goals

 

Successfully executing any personal strategic plan for change requires that as you develop your plan, you effectively incorporate these seven steps for attaining each and every goal:

  1. Express your goal in terms of specific events or behaviors.

 

For a dream to become a goal, it has to be specifically defined in terms of operations, meaning what will be done. When a goal is broken down into steps, it can be managed and pursued much more directly. “Being happy,” for example, is neither an event nor a behavior. When you set out to identify a goal, define what you want in clear and specific terms.

 

  1. Express your goal in terms that can be measured.

 

How else will you be able to determine your level of progress, or even know when you have successfully arrived where you wanted to be? For instance, how much money do you aspire to make?

 

  1. 3. Assign a timeline to your goal.

 

Once you have determined precisely what it is you want, you must decide on a timeframe for having it. The deadline you’ve created fosters a sense of urgency or purpose, which in turn will serve as an important motivator, and prevent inertia or procrastination.

 

  1. 4. Choose a goal you can control.

 

Unlike dreams, which allow you to fantasize about events over which you have no control, goals have to do with aspects of your existence that you control and can therefore manipulate. In identifying your goal, strive for what you can create, not for what you can’t.

 

  1. Plan and program a strategy that will get you to your goal.

 

 

Pursuing a goal seriously requires that you realistically assess the obstacles and resources involved, and that you create a strategy for navigating that reality. Willpower is unreliable, fickle fuel because it is based on your emotions. Your environment, your schedule and your accountability must be programmed in such a way that all three support you — long after an emotional high is gone. Life is full of temptations and opportunities to fail. Those temptations and opportunities compete with your more constructive and task-oriented behavior. Without programming, you will find it much harder to stay the course.

 

  1. Define your goal in terms of steps.

 

Major life changes don’t just happen; they happen one step at a time. Steady progress, through well-chosen, realistic, interval steps, produces results in the end. Know what those steps are before you set out.

 

  1. Create accountability for your progress toward your goal.

 

 

Without accountability, people are apt to con themselves. If you know precisely what you want, when you want it — and there are real consequences for not doing the assigned work — you are much more likely to continue in your pursuit of your goal. Find someone in your circle of family or friends to whom you can be accountable. Make periodic reports on your progress.

 

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Lifestyle, Uncategorized

Strengthning Your Body Strengthens Your Mind

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Strengthening Your Body Strengthens Your Mind

 

There are many reasons to exercise. Protecting your brain health and optimizing your thinking ability is one of them. In fact, there’s compelling evidence that exercise produces large cognitive gains, improves memory, and helps fight dementia.

 

For example, a 2010 study1 on primates revealed that regular exercise helped the monkeys learn new tasks twice as quickly as non-exercising monkeys, and researchers believe this might hold true for people as well.

 

Exercise helps protect and improve your brain function by:

 

Improving and increasing blood flow to your brain

Increasing production of nerve-protecting compounds

Improving development and survival of neurons

Reducing damaging plaques in your brain

Altering the way these damaging proteins reside inside your brain, which appears to slow the development of Alzheimer’s disease

 

 

Lifting Weights Boosts Memory

 

Strength training in particular has been shown to have a very beneficial impact on brain function and memory. In one study2 — featured in the video above — just 20 minutes of strength training was found to enhance long-term memory by about 10 percent.

 

In this experiment, 46 volunteers were randomly assigned to one of two groups — one active, and one passive. Initially, all of the participants viewed a series of 90 images. Afterward, they were asked to recall as many images as they could.

 

Next, the active group was told to do 50 leg extensions at personal maximum effort using a resistance exercise machine. The passive participants were asked to let the machine move their leg, without exerting any personal effort.

 

Two days later the participants returned to the lab, where they were shown a series of 180 pictures — the 90 original photos, plus 90 new ones. Interestingly, even though it was two days since they performed the leg extensions, those in the active group had markedly improved image recall.

 

The passive control group recalled about 50 percent of the original photos, whereas the active group remembered about 60 percent of the previously shown images.

 

As reported by The Epoch Times:3

 

“Our study indicates that people don’t have to dedicate large amounts of time to give their brain a boost,’ says Lisa Weinberg… who led the project.

 

Although the study used weight exercises… resistance activities such as squats or knee bends would likely produce the same results. In other words, exercises that don’t require the person to be in good enough to shape to bike, run, or participate in prolonged aerobic exercises…”

 

The Intriguing Link Between Leg Power and Brain Function

 

Another recent study supports these findings, and suggests that working your leg muscles helps maintain cognitive function as you get older. According to the authors, simply walking more could help maintain brain function well into old age.

 

This study4,5,6,7 followed 324 female twins, aged 43 to 73, for a decade. Cognitive function such as learning and memory was tested at the outset and at the conclusion of the study. Interestingly, as reported by MedicineNet.com:8

 

“The researchers found that leg strength was a better predictor of brain health than any other lifestyle factor looked at in the study.

 

Generally, the twin with more leg strength at the start of the study maintained her mental abilities better and had fewer age-related brain changes than the twin with weaker legs…

 

‘It’s compelling to see such differences in cognition [thinking] and brain structure in identical twins, who had different leg power 10 years before,’ [lead author Claire] Steves add

 

‘It suggests that simple lifestyle changes to boost our physical activity may help to keep us both mentally and physically healthy.'”

Previous research has demonstrated that exercise promotes brain health by releasing hormones from the muscles, which encourage the growth of new brain cells — a process known as neurogenesis or neuroplasticity.

 

Your brain’s hippocampus, i.e. your memory center, is particularly adaptable and capable of growing new cells throughout your entire lifetime, even into your 90s, provided your lifestyle supports it.

 

For example, one year-long study found that adults who exercised regularly were actually enlarging their brain’s memory center by one to two percent per year, where typically that center shrinks with age.

 

The study on twins is said to be the first showing a specific link between leg power and cognition in normal, healthy people, and this is great news, as your leg muscles are among the largest in your body and can be easily worked, either through seated leg exercises, or by standing and walking.

 

Exercise Boosts Brain Performance Among Students and Employees

 

The hippocampus belongs to the ancient part of your brain known as the limbic system, and plays an important role in the consolidation of information from your short-term memory to your long-term memory, as well as spatial navigation. Previous animal research9 has found that not only does exercise activate hippocampal neurons, it actually promotes their growth. In one study,10 exercising mice grew an average of 6,000 new brain cells in every cubic millimeter of tissue sampled.

 

The growth occurred in the hippocampus, the memory center of the brain, and the mice showed significant improvements in the ability to recall memories without any confusion.  A number of other studies have investigated the impact of exercise on brain performance and IQ. Some of the research highlights11 include:

 

Among elementary school students, 40 minutes of daily exercise increased IQ by an average of nearly four points

Among sixth graders, the fittest students scored 30 percent higher than average students, and the less fit students scored 20 percent lower

Among older students, those who play vigorous sports have a 20 percent improvement in Math, Science, English, and Social Studies

Students who exercised before class improved test scores 17 percent, and those who worked out for 40 minutes improved an entire letter grade

Employees who exercise regularly are 15 percent more efficient than those who do not, which means a fit employee only needs to work 42.5 hours in a week to do the same work as an average employee does in 50

To Optimize Your Health and Longevity, Stay in Constant Motion

 

The type of exercise program that will benefit your brain is identical to the one that will benefit the rest of your body. Ideally, you’d want to strive for a comprehensive routine that includes high-intensity interval exercise (HIIT), strength training, core work, and stretching. Then, in addition to a well-rounded workout routine, I also recommend standing up as much as possible to avoid the well-documented hazards associated with chronic sitting, and walking 7,000 to 10,000 steps a day.

 

Daily walking has been found to trigger an anti-aging process, and recent research suggests it may add anywhere from three to seven years to your lifespan. It’s clearly an essential movement we all require, ideally in addition to a regular exercise program. And, once you’ve eased into a daily walk routine, you can easily turn it into a high-intensity walking workout, which may be especially beneficial if you’re elderly or unable to engage in other forms of high-intensity exercises.

 

Best of all, you can benefit from walking no matter what age you get started. Study author Sanjay Sharma, professor of Inherited Cardiac Diseases in Sports Cardiology at St. George’s University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust in London, told The Independent:12

 

“We may never avoid becoming completely old, but we may delay the time we become old. We may look younger when we’re 70 and may live into our nineties. Exercise buys you three to seven additional years of life. It is an antidepressant, it improves cognitive function, and there is now evidence that it may retard the onset of dementia.”

 

Everyone Can Benefit from More Walking

 

 

 

Part of what makes walking so beneficial is that when you’re walking you can’t be sitting. Sitting for more than eight hours a day is associated with a 90 percent increased risk of type 2 diabetes, along with increased risks of heart disease, cancer, and all-cause mortality.13 I personally walk about two hours a day; about 60 miles per week.

 

I do this barefoot without a shirt on at the beach — this way I’m able to get my sun exposure at the same time, which is an added benefit. I also like to read while I walk and this allows me to read two or three books a week. Multi-tasking like this allows me to easily justify the time investment and reap the many benefits that daily walking offers. I have been doing this now for more than a year and have logged 3,000 miles, which is the distance of walking across the US.

 

Consider High Intensity Exercises for Maximum Health Boost

 

In addition to these daily walks, I also do some form of regimented exercise each day. This includes strength training four times a week. My current goal is to deadlift 400 pounds. Got up to 340 but have a ways to go. I also do a daily 30 minute stretching routine on the Power Plate.

 

HIIT, which is a core component of my Peak Fitness program, maximizes your human growth hormone (HGH) secretion, optimizes your metabolism, and helps regulate your insulin and blood sugar. And nothing beats it in terms of efficiency. You can complete an entire Peak Fitness workout in 20 minutes or less.

 

My previous article, “Peak Fitness: Reap the Benefits of High-Intensity Interval Training,” details the benefits of HIIT and offers guidance, instructions, and demonstrations for how to perform HIIT with or without equipment.

 

Strength Training Becomes Increasingly Important with Age

 

Getting back to strength training and working your muscles is important not just for its brain-boosting effects. It produces a number of molecular, enzymatic, hormonal, and chemical changes that help slow down and even reverse a number of diseases, including type 2 diabetes, osteoporosis, and heart disease. And, contrary to popular belief, strength training is particularly important for the elderly.

 

By strengthening muscles, connective tissues, tendons, and ligaments, strength training helps you maintain a stable body position, and allows you to perform everyday activities like climbing stairs and getting out of a chair with greater ease. This freedom of movement adds to your quality of life, but the benefits don’t end there. One study showed that strength training in the elderly genetically turned back the biological clock about 10 years!

 

So where do you start?

 

If you’re elderly and have been sedentary for some time, I suggest you begin by taking a look at my “Basic Exercise Guide for Older Seniors and the Infirm”. It contains basic seated and standing exercises that can help improve balance and coordination. My article “Easy Strength Training Moves for Seniors” contain beginner’s level strength training exercises, which you can then move into.

 

For the rest of you, I suggest reviewing my “Beginners Guide to Strength Training,” which lists a number of strength training options, such as body weight exercises, kettle bells, resistance bands, medicine balls, resistance machines, and more.

 

How to Get the Most out of Your Strength Training Routine

 

Last but not least, you can also turn your strength training routine into a high-intensity exercise. This is done by slowing down your movements. Super-slow weight training is a particularly well-suited form of high-intensity exercise for older individuals, as it actively prevents you from accidentally harming your joints or suffering repetitive use injury.

 

In the video below I discuss and demonstrate the proper execution of a number of different super-slow weight training exercises. They can all be done using either free weights or machines. The benefit of using a quality machine is that it will allow you to focus your mind on the effort, as opposed to the movement.

 

The typical super-slow resistance workout can be completed in about 15 minutes. Just one or two of these workouts are needed each week, as you need to make sure you’ve sufficiently recovered between sessions.

 

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Health and Disease, Lifestyle

Less Sleep, Faster Brain Aging

lesssleep

Less Sleep, Faster Brain Aging

This troubling finding comes from a Singapore-based study showing that losing sleep with advancing age elicits changes in a region of the brain that is a marker for faster cognitive decline. The 66 Chinese seniors who participated had MRIs to measure their brain volume in conjunction with an evaluation of their cognitive function every two years. They also reported how many hours they typically slept. The researchers, from Duke-NUS Graduate Medical School Singapore, reported that study participants who slept fewer hours showed evidence of brain ventricle enlargement and declines in cognitive performance. This study was the first to look at the effect of sleep on brain ventricle enlargement, a known sign of cognitive decline. The investigators cited research elsewhere as showing that seven hours of sleep is associated with the best cognitive test scores in more than 150,000 adults, but noted that it is not yet known whether seven hours is optimum for overall physiology and long term brain health.

My take? This study adds a serious risk to the list of dangers posed by sleep deprivation throughout life. We know that lack of sleep increases the risk of accidents caused by fatigue and that not getting enough sleep is a risk factor for weight gain, perhaps by disrupting production of the appetite regulating hormones ghrelin and leptin. Sleep deprivation can also disrupt the body’s regulation of blood sugar, which can increase the risk of type 2 diabetes. And laboratory studies suggest that not getting adequate rest may also elevate levels of stress hormones, boost blood pressure, and increase inflammation – all changes that may lead or contribute to health concerns later in life. If you’re not getting enough sleep, the sooner you establish new habits, the better for the long-term health of your mind and body. Here are my recommendations for getting optimal sleep.

Want To Age Gracefully? It’s not about the lines on the face – it’s about the wisdom behind them. Don’t lament the passing of the years, celebrate all you have achieved, learned and earned, for your benefit and the benefit of others. Sources: June C. Lo et al, “Sleep Duration and Age-Related Changes in Brain Structure and Cognitive Performance.” SLEEP, 2014; DOI: 10.5665/sleep.3832