Lesson 26

Lesson 26: BHFM and The Stoic Advisor

Weekly Habits for Success - Daily Task to The Habits for Success

“Nature gave us legs with which to do our own walking, and eyes with which to do our own seeing. Our luxuries have condemned us to weakness; we have ceased to be able to do that which we have long declined to do.” —Seneca

Seneca describes the active city life of ancient Rome. There were athletes preparing for contests - running around, panting and grunting, lifting weights, right in the middle of the street. There were “ball counters” shouting scores of various games and, if that wasn’t enough, there was the ever-present clanking of chariot wheels on the cobblestones.

Ancient Rome sounds a lot like modern New York City with all its hustle and bustle. Even the city most of us live in has the sounds of life and progress all around us. And yes, even though the sounds of progress mean that we are making progress, it also means that it can be hard to detach from the hustle and bustle. Seneca said, “I assure you that this racket means no more to me than the sound of waves or falling water.” He further states, “If men vegetate without physical activity, their idle bodies are overwhelmed with flesh, and in their self-satisfied retirement the fat of indolence grows upon them… Such a man is internally dazed.”

Seneca speaks of this metaphorically in his writings. He writes of a bird being prepared for banquet, kept in darkness and deprived of movement, fattened up for the slaughter.

How many of us do this to ourselves? Scientists refer to this as the “sitting disease” and it’s the epidemic that no one is really talking about. “Sitting is more dangerous than smoking, kills more people than HIV and is more treacherous than parachuting,” director of the Mayo Clinic Dr. James Levine says. “We are sitting ourselves to death.”

Research from Mayo Clinic shows that the average American is about 25 pounds heavier today than we were even 50 years ago. Why is this?

The answer might surprise you. It’s not necessarily because of our diets. We still eat roughly the same number of calories that we used to (yes, we do eat more, but not enough to account for an average 25 pounds of weight gain per American).

The answer is our sedentary lifestyles. Mayo Clinic research shows that the average American used to burn an average of about 150 – 350 more calories per day. How did they do this?  Well, it wasn’t from exercise. It was because we burned more NEAT calories.

NEAT stands for “Non-Exercise Activity Thermogenesis”. NEAT calories are what we burn from the “movement of life” - walking, standing, and general movements as we go about our day.

Indeed, one in four Americans sit for more than eight hours a day. Only 4% spend less than 4 hours a day sitting. People who spend more than 6 hours per day sitting have a 71% increase in mortality rate and a 147% increase in the risk of cardiovascular disease. We wonder why we’re unhappy; being sedentary for 7 hours a day increases risk of depression by 47%.

Our bodies are not made to sit. They are made to move and are healthiest when we move. So how can we fix this problem? WE CAN GET UP AND MOVE!

Fifty years ago, the average American moved about 2½ more hours per day than we do today. So what do we do? Do we go for a 2½ hour walk every day? I don’t know about you, but I don’t have time for that.

What we have to do is make ourselves move throughout the day. 8½ minutes of movement or even standing per hour is how we make up the difference.

So, this month we’re going to focus on getting healthy and adding movement into our daily routines. Sure, we’ll start out slow and take baby steps. But we’re going to get ourselves more physically and mentally fit. Yes, that’s right, movement will make you more mentally fit.

It doesn’t matter if you work out like a madman at the gym 5 or 6 days per week, or if you’re an out-of-shape overweight coach potato. Each and every one of us will benefit from more movement in their lives.

Leo Babatua recommends: Make it small, make it so easy “you won’t say no. You’ll feel crazy if you don’t do it.”

So here’s what we’re going to do. Every waking hour of the day, I want you to do something active. Sure, if you’re in a client meeting, you can’t just get up, but don’t worry about that.

Stand up and do some deep knee bends (or bend as far as you can).

Stand up and do some calf raises next to your desk.

Stretch and see if you can touch your toes. Keep doing it and you will eventually.

Take the stairs.

Sit at your desk and do some leg extensions.

Twirl your arms out at your side.

If you’re in a location where you feel comfortable doing so, add in some random pushups.

Then, when you get home in the evening, go take a 10-minute walk. Keep walking and then add 5 minutes to that walk next week. Keep doing that until you’re up to an hour walk per day.

What do you do if it’s raining or too cold outside? Go walk the mall or get a membership at a gym and walk on a treadmill.

Is it going to be worth it to do all these things? According to relevant research, increasing your activity:

  • Reduces stress and anxiety. Like any physical activity, walking helps release endorphins that can minimize stress hormones and combat mild depression. According to a report published in the Journal of Neuroscience, researchers found that physical activities like walking reorganize the brain so that it can better cope with stress and anxiety.
  • Improves cardiovascular health. In a meta-analysis published in the British Medical Journal which involved almost 460,000 participants, walking was found to lower risks of cardiovascular diseases and all-cause mortality in men and women. The researchers added, “A dose–response relationship exists, with minimal benefits achieved, on average, at approximately three hours per week walking at a moderate pace. Greater benefits can be achieved especially for increased walking pace.”
  • Helps maintain healthy weight. When it comes to losing weight, even a short walk can go a long way. In a study published in the Journal of Nutrition, participants who walked only 2.5 hours a week lost on average four more pounds than those who consumed the same number of calories but didn’t walk. They also lost more fat mass compared to those who didn’t walk, and significantly decreased their insulin resistance and “bad” cholesterol.
  • Boosts life expectancy. The miles that you walk can also add years to your life. According to a study presented at the European Society of Cardiology Congress in 2015, researchers from Germany's Saarland University found that walking a mere 25 minutes per day can increase your lifespan by seven years. The researchers added that walking could minimize aging and cut the risk of dying from a heart attack in half.
  • Deepens relationships. Having a walking partner is a great way to stay motivated and strengthen a relationship. Studies have shown that couples who engage in some sort of physical activity together report feeling more satisfied with their relationship. Additionally, by having someone to talk to, walking can seem more passive and less like a chore.

Scientists, poets, writers, salesman, philosophers have known for millennia that a good walk is one the most important things that you can do to get the creative juices flowing. Aristotle used to conduct walking lectures around Athens. Albert Einstein walked a mile and half from his home to his office every day. Charles Darwin walked 45 minutes every day. Nietzsche supposedly walked 8 hours a day with a pen and paper in hand. While walking through Dublin, the mathematician William Rowan Hamilton suddenly realized the solution to a complicated math problem that had eluded him, carving it into a nearby bridge with his penknife to ensure it wasn’t forgotten.

Think about it for a moment. When you’re deep in thought, how often do you get up and start pacing around? I’ll bet you do it more than you realize. Walking or pacing feeds the creative mind.

And more often than that, the best ideas come from taking a walk in nature away from the hustle and bustle of the city or the community.

So, the final thing I want you to do starting now: Find a day each week where you can get away into nature and just go for a walk. Walk alone, or with your spouse or a friend. It doesn’t matter. Just get out and get the creative juices flowing.

NEW TASK: Figure out 6 – 10 different activities you can perform during each hour of your day. You don’t have to do them all at once, just do one at a time and list them out. Some examples include push-ups, calf raises, deep knee bends, leg extensions, toe touches, and walking upstairs. Then do one of those activities every hour.

NEW TASK: Take a 10-minute walk every evening (or in the morning if you prefer). If the weather is bad, go to the gym and get on a treadmill or buy one for your home.

NEW TASK: Find some nature trails in your area and go for a walk. If you prefer, feel free to go for a bike ride (bike riding is a perfect substitute for walking for those with bad knees or hips.

NEW HABIT: Make all of the above a habit. Make the time spent on your walks time to reflect and think or have an interesting conversation with your walking partner.