Physical Activity and Movement Part 7

I’m a fan of endurance training. I incorporate it as part of my physical activity profile and I like knowing I have the cardiovascular ability to run 5 miles or climb a mountain. I think most people would benefit from some form of endurance activity.

It’s important to understand that picking only one endurance activity and doing that all the time as your sole source of exercise can actually sometimes create negative physical responses.

What’s Wrong with Endurance Training?

If you’re only using particular muscle groups and movement patterns on a consistent, sustained basis, you may be creating imbalances in your body’s functional abilities. In addition, running 15 miles a day is not necessarily associated with a longer, healthier lifespan. The studies are mixed. I’m not here to criticize that habit. I’m suggesting that’s not what you have to do to experience good health. If it’s something you do because of all the benefits for you specifically, then keep doing it. Just recognize that your body might need periods or rest, recovery, and cross-training with different exercises.

Your body will adapt to any form of chronic, repetitive stress. Eventually, the gains you get from this will be minimized. You’ll maximize your physical capabilities and your aerobic capabilities to that specific exercise. Your body will make its adjustments, and from that point forward, it’s doubtful it does a whole lot more for you. Again, it can help you feel better mentally and provide a sense of accomplishment. I’m not suggesting you stop. I’m just letting you know that if you’re embracing physical activity for the first time, you don’t have to set the goal of completing your first marathon. You can, but it’s not necessary. It may actually have some negative consequences for you.

If you’re only using particular muscle groups and movement patterns on a consistent, sustained basis, you may be creating imbalances in your body’s functional abilities.

Physical Activity for Weight Loss

If you’re trying to use physical activity for weight loss, then burning calories on a daily basis is helpful. But eventually, your body will adjust to this metabolically. There’s a point to where the sustained exposure to the same activity on the same basis will not really change the energy balance of your body and help you to lose further weight.

In order to better understand what causes weight loss, you’ll need to see our series on the true causes of weight gain, and how to lose weight successfully. It’s far more complicated than just eating less and exercising.

Endurance training and jumping

However, if the thought of engaging in an endurance activity such as a triathlon, running, cycling, or swimming is appealing to you, then go for it. Enjoy it. But try to balance it out with other exercises, and try to give your body periods of appropriate rest. Also, incorporate these overall foundational principles into your exercise pattern. You can certainly do intervals while swimming, running, and cycling. Then settle into your longer periods of sustained exertion levels.

There’s no doubt that participation in endurance activities can improve mental wellbeing, improve mood, and give a strong sense of accomplishment. Our next blog will briefly discuss physical activity for weight loss.

I’m on a mission to deliver personalized and compassionate healthcare. Follow me on Facebook and Instagram. Want to ask a question? Contact me!

Eating Behaviors and the Brain Part 15

In our recent posts, we have emphasized what happens to our body when we’re exposed to these unnatural foods that trigger our reward system. Now comes the even more challenging news: these foods are everywhere.

These hyper-palatable, highly rewarding foods are the most readily available to all of us. They’re the least expensive and most convenient. There are many communities where they’re the only foods available. These communities are becoming generationally sick because they have no access to the foods that could make them well. This is a real problem.

You have to change what you eat, so you can change your brain in order for it to work for you.

Our public policymakers should be addressing it, but unfortunately, it’s not happening, and it doesn’t appear to be happening any time soon. The thought leaders that I follow and respect that study this issue from a public policy standpoint suggest that it is going to be up to us to help ourselves. Perhaps our policymakers will eventually see this issue for what it is, and we will begin to get reasonable policies that allow all of us access to the foods that give us health. But for now, we have to do this ourselves.

Box of processed cookies

The food industry has given way too much money to our politicians to untangle this right now. Eventually, it may happen, but not any time soon. The advertisements are everywhere: on television, radio, social media, and billboards. They show the foods that trigger our reward system and advertise them in very seductive ways. They show them to our children with cartoon characters and toys and to adults with highly suggestive images.

We have to know what we’re dealing with. We have to know what we’re about, and we’re about health. Right now, the top 6 sources of calories in the United States are:

  1. Grain-based desserts, such as cakes, cookies, donuts, pies, cobblers, and granola bars. Many energy bars fall into this category.
  2. Yeast-based breads.
  3. Chicken, and chicken mix dishes, such as chicken fingers, chicken nuggets, and all the other ways in which we eat chicken.
  4. Soda, energy drinks, and sports drinks, such as Gatorade and Powerade.
  5. Pizza. It’s a category of its own.
  6. Alcoholic beverages.

Also, consider this: fast food now makes up 11% of the average American’s energy intake. We now drink 350% more soft drinks than we did 50 years ago. Soybean oil, which is largely used in highly processed foods, accounts for 8% of all calories that Americans consume. These types of oils directly create inflammation and disease in the body.

This all makes perfect sense. If you sell food, you want people to eat your food. How can you do that?

  1. Engineer the food to be extra rewarding, and hard to stop eating.
  2. Make it cheap and convenient.
  3. Influence public policymakers to allow your foods to be present in the school cafeterias of our education system.
  4. Pay off the health organizations that should be telling the truth about these foods.

Then, if you’re good at marketing, you create all kinds of new opportunities for people to eat. You get them to eat while they watch a movie, or you get them to eat at snack time, both before and after school. You get them to eat in front of the TV, and at sporting events, before and after workouts, and late at night.

Essentially, food cues are everywhere, so we have to be aware, highly awake, and tuned in. We have to choose the foods that naturally satisfy us so we’ll no longer be susceptible to those that make us sick. You have to exercise that choice. If you’re exposed to the foods that directly trigger your reward system, you’ll have no choice. But if you begin to surround yourself with whole foods, and nutritious foods, you will gain control of your eating behavior.

So what’s the answer to this then? You have to change what you eat, so you can change your brain in order for it to work for you. You’re not able to control your genetics, or your past history of eating behaviors, or the physiological adaptations that have taken place. But you can begin to control your future behaviors, and your behavior right now.

Essentially, food cues are everywhere, so we have to be aware, highly awake, and tuned in.

Here are three simple, but challenging, steps you can take right now to get control of your natural appetite regulation system and begin to make your own healthy choices.

Step one is to eat more whole, fresh, minimally processed foods. These include things such as:

  1. Lean meats; poultry; fish; eggs; dairy from healthy, grass-fed, pasture-raised cows; and plant sources that can give you lean protein.
  2. Fresh, organic fruits and vegetables, ideally colorful ones full of nutrients. It’s important that they be organic and grown in healthy soil so you get nutrients and fiber.
  3. Slow-digesting, high-fiber, natural starches such as non-GMO, properly prepared whole grains; organic tubers such as potatoes, sweet potatoes, and yams; and properly prepared non-GMO legumes such as beans and lentils.
  4. Organic nuts, seeds, avocados, coconut, fatty fish, and seafood

Sliced avocado with pit

The second step is to be mindful about your eating, as we’ve often discussed. No matter what you eat, slowing down will help your brain and your gastrointestinal tract coordinate their activities and create proper signaling. You’ll feel more in control of choosing what and how to eat if you slow down. You’ll also allow proper satiation signals to get through, so you’ll feel satisfied with less food.

Step three: eliminate the processed, hyper-palatable foods that are making you sick. Now, this is challenging. After all, we’ve just spent a lot of time talking about how appealing these foods are. But this must be done if you want to experience your best health and if you want control of your eating behavior.

Now, tending to steps one and two is going to make step three much easier. If you get a lot of the good stuff, and you stay mindful while you’re eating it, you’re really not going to have the desire, or the capacity, to eat the other stuff. It really makes a difference.

No matter what you eat, slowing down will help your brain and your gastrointestinal tract coordinate their activities and create proper signaling.

If you do these three steps consistently, four things are going to happen:

One, you’re going to notice that you have fewer cravings for the highly processed foods, and you’ll feel like you’re in charge of your food decisions.

Two, you’ll be more satisfied with the food you eat, and you’ll feel fuller longer. You’ll also perhaps influence the resetting of the leptin loop we’ve discussed, although everybody differs with this.

Three, you’ll probably lose body fat if doing so is something your body needs. It may not happen, but there’s a good chance it will, and you won’t have to have followed a low-calorie diet to do so.

Four, you’ll probably find that you feel better, move better, think better, and have fewer aches and pains or gastrointestinal symptoms.

Nutrition is complex. Our underlying physiology plays a major role, but so does psychology, relationships, our larger society and culture,  lifestyles, and our individual knowledge and beliefs about food and eating. What this means is that you’re not controlled by the physiology alone, although it has a strong influence.

Large fresh salad with variety of vegetables

You can use other activities and choices to help your body do its job well:

  • Eat the foods that naturally control appetite and weight.
  • Spend more time with people who honor the need for nutritious foods.
  • Shop at the marketplaces that sell these foods and do not provide the other foods that make you sick.
  • Eliminate the foods that make you sick from your cupboards and your refrigerator, making it harder to get to them.
  • Find activities that reduce hunger and help you to feel better.

Trust me. When you begin to eat healthy foods and enjoy them in the company of those you love, your mind and your body will thank you for it. It’s the fix to everything in regards to your eating behavior and your energy balance.

There is an uncomplicated and understandable truth about eating and health. I want to make it easy for you. Join me at Health Shepherds, follow me on Instagram, and like me on Facebook.

Physical Activity and Movement Part 6

In this post, we’re going to get into a little bit of science. We’re going to discuss the concept of genetics and epigenetics, and understanding your body’s individual design.

Now the first big concept is something I’ve emphasized throughout the entire series:

Our bodies are designed, meaning genetically adapted, to have daily physical activity and movement as a part of our life.

We thrive when we honor our body’s design, and this is foundational. All of us, regardless of differences in our genetics, are designed for physical activity and movement, and we need to honor this. We will maximize positive genetic expression by maximizing our movement potential and honoring our body’s function.

A sedentary lifestyle dishonors the body’s design and leads to negative genetic expression.

Some studies have suggested that a sedentary lifestyle is equivalent to smoking in regards to the harm to our health and lifespans. This makes sense. If our bodies are designed for movement, and we spend most of our time sitting or lying down, then our bodies will deteriorate, which means our health deteriorates, and we will not feel good.

Every one of us knows this. If you sit at a desk all day, hunched over, by the end of the day, you’ve experienced the neck pain, back pain, numbness or tingling in the arms and fingers, headaches, and many other consequences of this unnatural posture sustained over a long period of time.

Couple running across bridge

We know that in modern industrialized countries, many people get out of bed, and after a brief period of getting themselves organized, sit in a car, then sit at a desk, then back to the car again, followed by a sit on the couch, and then go back to bed. This completely dishonors the body’s design. It’s no wonder so many people are experiencing biomechanical breakdown and diseases of the physical body and are riddled with pain.

Allow me to get up on my soapbox for a moment.

If the root cause of your pain and your physical diseases is an unhealthy pattern of movement, then no medication can restore this for you. No medication can solve the problem. All they can do is give you brief symptom relief, but the underlying problem will progress. You’ll not experience the life you want if this continues. You must adopt this habit if you want to experience your best health.

I won’t go into the details of all the negative impact of sedentary postures, but I think you can picture it in your mind. Picture very quickly sitting at a desk, shoulders rolled forward, head forward, staring into a computer screen for hours. Picture sitting in a car, and then sitting on the couch. And then picture a healthy, upright human body, and picture a body that’s in proper posture, and with proper movement. You’ll know these two things don’t go together.

Now, I’m not suggesting that you’ll have to quit your job. But you will have to become intentional about how you engage your body every day. This is very important.


So let’s briefly cover the idea of genetics. Epigenetics is the concept that at any given moment, your DNA is expressing a version of you in response to the messages it has received. It can express a healthy you or a sick you, a lean you or a heavy you, a feel-good you or a not-feeling-good you. This is based on the messages it receives. Your body is constantly taking in messages from your environment and your habits.

Your physical body is taking in messages through actual pressure on mechanoreceptors on your cells. This leads to a change in genetic expression. Your body is literally responding to the physical pressures it’s experiencing throughout the day, and changing its function in accordance with this.

If the root cause of your pain and your physical diseases is an unhealthy pattern of movement, then no medication can restore this for you.

So it’s very important to get these inputs right if you want to genetically express the healthy, feel-good version of you. There’s simply no way around this. That’s what this program is designed to teach you.

Individual Genetics

Then there’s individual genetics. Each one of us has variations in our DNA when compared to others. It’s beyond the scope of this blog to go into all the differences, but just know that there are many. Now, some of these differences have to do with our physical capabilities. While we can all optimize our genetic potential, there are some limitations based on our genetic potential.

Some of us are engineered more towards power, and others towards endurance. There can be a balance of these two, but often, one or the other is predominant. Some of us produce a greater inflammatory response after experiencing the stress of physical activity, and it can take longer for us to recover. Some of us have differences in our connective tissues that affect our mobility or our strength capabilities. The list goes on and on.

Mother and child hiking by a creek

Genetic Blueprint

We all have a genetic blueprint for our physical health. You can actually learn about your genetic blueprint using genetic testing through companies like DNAFit. This will help you better understand your blueprint.

I can tell you that I’ve done a DNAFit test, and it basically told me what I already know. I’m geared more towards endurance than power, that it takes me longer to recover from activities that intensely engage my muscle groups, and my mobility is relatively limited.

While we can all optimize our genetic potential, there are some limitations based on our genetic potential.

You don’t have to do these DNA tests to understand yourself. You probably have a good sense of your intrinsic capabilities already. However, this is different from what we were often taught in middle school when we were all pushed into a very similar paradigm of physical fitness, including weight lifting routines and sprinting routines.

You can gear your physical activity program towards your genetic blueprint and optimize your results. It’s important to understand these differences. They are real and they impact you. If you had a profile like mine, and you decided CrossFit was the workout for you, you would definitely struggle. I’m not criticizing CrossFit; I’m just using it as an example. I would never be good at CrossFit. I would be excessively breaking my body down on a daily basis, not having adequate recovery times, and trying to maximize an attribute that I’m just not genetically gifted for. That gives me the freedom to know that CrossFit’s not for me, although it’s great for others.

Doctor’s Conclusion

Your genetics will play a major role in determining the best balance of your physical activity program. Think about this and begin to journal a bit about what you think your natural attributes are. This comes from your ancestry. It probably has a lot to do with the lifestyles your ancestors had to live to survive.

I’m Northern European, mostly British Isles. I suspect my Scotch-Irish ancestors spent a lot of time walking up and down hills, digging tubers out of the dirt. I suspect that they spent a lot of time plodding around. And guess what, I’m a good plodder. I can plod up a mountain, and plod many places, but I’m not particularly powerful or fast. I’m just fine with that. I just want to feel good and be healthy. I can be a very healthy plodder.

Your genetics will play a major role in determining the best balance of your physical activity program. Think about this and begin to journal a bit about what you think your natural attributes are.

Think about the areas that are easy for you and the areas that are challenging. Additionally, think about how to honor that. Think about where your ancestors may have come from and how it informs this. It gets you much further down the path of honoring your specific body’s design.

But before we leave this blog, I’ll reiterate that all of us are genetically designed for movement and physical activity. There are just differences in the best programs for each of us.

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Physical Activity and Movement Part 5

We’re going to stop and explore some of the myths about physical activity and human health. I’ve already discussed that the physical activity associated with long, healthy lifespans doesn’t necessarily involve heavy conditioning. I’m not opposed to, or criticizing those who engage in, intensive physical exercise regimens for the purposes of accomplishment and achievement. This can be a great thing to do. I periodically engage in training programs to improve my body’s ability to do particular activities. During these periods, my physical activity program is more challenging, but the sense of accomplishment is worth it to me.

Myth #1: Our ancestors never rested.

I offer this program as the foundation for a long, healthy lifespan. I am not suggesting that the more intensive programs are bad for your health. However, this program does not involve sustained intensive physical conditioning if you do not wish it to include such activities.

If you think about it from an ancestral standpoint, it’s doubtful that our distant ancestors would have purposely exhausted themselves on a daily basis. During ancestral times, all energy was applied to survival. Once you had what was needed, you would have rested. In fact, there’s ample evidence that our ancestors from 500 years ago to 2,000 years ago and on back through millennia probably rested a good deal more than we do today. Our ancestors would have moved a lot and then rested a lot.

Certainly, there would have been seasons where they worked hard every day, to the point of physical exhaustion. But these would have been followed by seasons of rest and recovery, and relatively low levels of physical activity. It’s okay to give yourself permission to just focus on these habits in a way that feels good to you, and does not make you hurt or feel bad. You will still get the benefit from this.

Myth #2: You have to exercise every day to be healthy.

That’s not true. Daily movement is very important, and you should take every opportunity to move. We’ll be outlining this in one of our blogs. But you don’t have to go to a gym every day, or engage in intensive exercise every day to maintain good health. You can cycle through different movement patterns on different days.

In fact, exercising too intensely every day can be associated with negative health outcomes. This can increase inflammation, reduce thyroid function, elevate stress responses, suppress immune function, and actually lead to earlier death.

There’s a proper balance of physical activity and rest. While I want you to be intentional on a daily basis about the physical health of your body, you will not have to do intensive exercise every day.

Two women balancing in yoga

Myth #3: You have to exercise a certain amount of time to get the benefit of it.

This is also not true. Any bit of movement will help. If you’ve been sedentary for years, simply taking one 10-minute walk a day will be a step in the right direction. Any amount of time will benefit you.

Yes, the more you move, and the more you engage these habits, the healthier you’ll become, and the better you’ll feel. But there is no minimum amount of time that you must do it for to get the benefits. Simply do what you can, and remember that any amount of time counts.

Myth #4: Exercise is a form of stress reduction.

Now, I have to be careful about this, because absolutely, people who exercise regularly do have reduced stress responses. I already described that when discussing the benefits of physical activity. Regular physical activity does reduce mental stress and promotes emotional well-being. It improves resiliency.

However, you have to understand that exercise is an actual form of stress on the body. That’s the point of it. You stress your body in order to create a genetic and hormonal response to repair and restore the body so that it functions better for you. Exercise is actually a form of stress. Positive forms of stress are called eustress. These are different than distress, which are negative stressors.

However, overexposure to eustress without appropriate rest and recovery can actually still lead to disease and breakdown. Once you’ve exposed your body to this stress, you have to give it the time to recover. There are genetic differences on our recovery times. You have to honor your body’s need for recovery to be healthy.

Yes, in the big picture, conceptually, exercise reduces stress. But remember that exercise is actually a form of stress, and has to be managed with all of the other stressors you’re experiencing on a day-to-day basis.

Myth #5: I have to eat before or after exercise in order to have the benefits of exercise.

This is not true. Now, I’m speaking generally. There are certainly people who have medical hypoglycemia, or other metabolic disorders, or use insulin, who have to be much more regimented in their food consumption.

However, if you’ve reviewed any of our materials on maintaining healthy weight and metabolism, you’ll know that our body is designed to have something called metabolic flexibility. It will use whatever fuel is available to it in the moment. It can use glucose (sugars), fatty acids, or the byproduct of using fatty acids, something called ketone bodies. In addition, it can make its own glucose from amino acids.

Your body is capable of generating the energy you need for physical activity. There is a difference between specific nutritional protocols for elite athletes and how to maintain healthy eating habits and follow a program like the one I’m outlining. For this program, provided that you’re adequately hydrated, you’ll be able to engage in these activities without having to eat beforehand. You don’t have to have a specific shake or protein smoothie after you do this. You simply engage and let your body guide you.

Now, it’s beyond the scope of this blog to teach this in specific detail. That’s why we have other series on human metabolism, energy balance, and how the body works. You can reference those if you want more details. But the main point is you do not have to eat to go take a walk or to have a stretching session, or even do a short, high-intensity interval training session. In fact, there are many metabolic benefits from doing these in a fasted state, which we’ll outline in one of our posts.

The Doctor’s Conclusion

Now there are a lot of other misconceptions about physical activity and exercise that I’ve not gotten into here, but these are some of the big ones. Remember, you don’t have to punish yourself with this, you don’t have a minimum amount you have to do, and you don’t have to do this every single day.

Exercise involves intention and awareness. It is a form of stress and you have to manage that, but it is a positive stressor provided that you manage it properly.

With the type of program I’m outlining, you don’t have to have a specific nutrition program or supplement regimen to engage in it.

This should feel natural and easy to you because it’s how your body is designed. I hope you’ll continue to follow along in this series with me and see where movement can take you. I promise you’ll come to appreciate all of its many benefits.

I’m on a mission to deliver personalized and compassionate healthcare. Follow me on Facebook and Instagram. Want to ask a question? Contact me!

Physical Activity and Movement Part 4

I’m going to go ahead and outline the general approach to physical activity that supports a long, healthy lifespan. I want to make sure you know what we’re covering, and give you some actionable steps. I do believe this preliminary material I’m providing you is foundational to developing a proper movement habit, but I want you to be able to go ahead and get started.

Remember, this is a movement habit to promote a long, healthy lifespan. That’s our goal. If you’re looking to break strength and speed records, then you’ll need a different blog series to help you with that.

Movement for Life

We’re going to be focusing on five core concepts that cover the span of proper use of the body. There are many different ways to engage in these concepts. In fact, I will be encouraging you to rotate through different programs over time. But I want you to start with whatever is easiest for you, and whatever feels good, and sounds like it could be fun.

Two people walking up stairs for exercise

Concept #1: Biomechanical or Kinesthetic Awareness and Posture

The reason I start with this one is that it’s foundational to everything else. In our earlier blog, we did a brief meditation visualization where we paid attention to our body and began to develop awareness about our body and its function. You have to honor your body’s function in order for physical movement to be beneficial to you. Unhealthy movement patterns will actually lead to inflammation, pain, and injury. Proper use of the body will reduce pain, improve function, and improve your ability to really enjoy the overall movement paradigm.

We have to pay attention to how we’re holding and using our body, and this will require our awareness. We have to pay attention to the positioning of our shoulders, neck, and head, how we’re breathing and standing, the use of our feet, the mobility of our hips, the use of our core muscles. This is a very important part of our overall program, and we’ll dedicate one specific post to this.

Concept #2: Overall Daily Movement

This is an easy one. It’s just to simply keep increasing your daily movement. The body is designed for movement. It’s designed to walk, hang, climb, push, pull, squat, and kneel. We’ve already covered that if you have certain limitations, then you have to work within those, but whatever it is you can do, you should do. Take every opportunity to move. This will burn more calories, and help you to feel better. Being in a sedentary position all day long is not consistent with our body’s design, and it will cause you to feel bad.

Proper use of the body will reduce pain, improve function, and improve your ability to really enjoy the overall movement paradigm.

This is refreshingly simple. Just take the opportunity to stand, to squat, to walk up the stairs, to take a little walk, to stretch, to roll your shoulders around. Just increase overall daily movement.

Couple exercising by walking dog in the woods

Concept #3: Strength

It’s essential that we maintain the strength of our body. When you use your muscles to the point of exhaustion, you create a stimulus to your body that results in the upregulation of hormones that will maintain muscle strength and improve bone density and connective tissue health. This is an essential message for your body to receive. It does not have to be often. We’ll go into the details of it in a later blog, but it’s absolutely essential that at least occasionally, you use your muscles to the point of exhaustion.

Concept #4: Sprint

You don’t actually have to sprint. We’re going to recommend that you use something that’s very popular now: high-intensity interval training. It’s a simple concept, a series of fast-paced movements that cause your heart to beat faster and for you to breath heavy, followed by intervals of rest. It doesn’t have to be that long, but it does need to be done. Your biomechanical and your cardiovascular systems are designed to occasionally sprint.

When you use your muscles to the point of exhaustion, you create a stimulus to your body that results in the upregulation of hormones that will maintain muscle strength and improve bone density and connective tissue health.

This was a key part of our ancestral health, whether it involved hunting, fighting, or playing games. We’re going to make sure that we honor this. Again, it won’t have to be too long or too often. We’ll describe it in detail in a later post.

If you’re looking for a guide to this, we have it on as a free PDF download.

Women practicing easy stretching yoga

Concept #5: Mobility, Balance, and Connective Tissue Health

We also have to honor our body’s biomechanical frame. This involves stretching, myofascial release, yoga, Pilates, foam rolling, massage, and other methods of lengthening muscles, and improving the health of our biomechanical frame. This is also foundational to physical health.

We’ll also describe the many ways of honoring this principle in a later blog post.

Rest and Recovery

Now, it’s not one of the foundational principles, and we’ll describe it shortly, but rest and recovery is absolutely an essential part of this paradigm as well.

Doctor’s Conclusion

So that’s it.

These are the 5 principles, and we’re going to teach you how to honor them and to work them into your daily life in such a way that it becomes an easy routine to maintain. You’ll find before long that this is one of the easiest things you’ve ever done and that it gives you such positive benefit that you’ll never look back.

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Physical Activity and Movement Part 3

Once you understand the benefits of a daily movement habit, it will be hard to resist engaging in the process to create this new routine. The benefits are innumerable. In my book, Authentic Health, I talk about the fact that if I could bottle all of the benefits of physical activity and place it in a capsule, and then sell it as a prescription, that everybody would want it. I talk about how people would be willing to pay the price, no matter how much. Then I remind them that the great news is there is no price. It’s free for you. All you have to do is take advantage of it.

Once you understand the benefits of a daily movement habit, it will be hard to resist engaging in the process to create this new routine.

How Does Movement Help Me?

Because our bodies are designed for physical activity, we experience a lot of positive benefits when we use our bodies properly. Creating a habit of movement provides results like these:

  • Lowering blood pressure;
  • Lowering resting heart rate;
  • Reducing insulin resistance;
  • Improving blood sugar control for people with diabetes;
  • Providing a metabolic signal that can assist with maintaining a healthy weight or losing weight;
  • Reducing your risk of atherosclerosis and having future cardiovascular events such as heart attack or stroke;
  • Boosting the health of your metabolic systems, your cardiovascular system, and your mind;
  • Increasing blood flow to the brain;
  • Enhancing a sense of wellbeing, including positive emotions like joy, peace, and gratitude;
  • Activating neuroplasticity, the ability to create new pathways in your mind to enhance your experience of this world and create new habits;
  • Alleviating emotional stress responses by reducing fear, anxiety, worry, irritability, and other negative emotions;
  • Improving your ability to get to sleep and sleep deeply through the night;
  • Refining the conditioning of your muscles, the ability of your body to use energy properly when needed, the health of your connective tissues, and the density of your bones;
  • Reducing your risk of injuries and falls;
  • Helping your balance by improving proprioception and how your body sends input to your brain to understand where you are in space; and,
  • Enhancing cognitive functions, allowing you to think better.

Bicyclists and runner outside exercising together

You get the idea. There’s an incredible amount of benefits to physical activity, and it’s for a clear reason: our bodies were designed for it. Not getting physical activity is similar to not sleeping, breathing, hydrating, or eating. Now, it’s not quite the same, because obviously without breathing you’ll die very quickly, and without drinking water, you’ll die pretty quickly as well. But nonetheless, the absence of physical activity will slowly deteriorate your body and lead to earlier death.

Sounds Good, Right?

I imagine that everything that I’m describing is something you want. You may already be engaged in a very healthy foundation for physical activity. If so, that’s great. Keep doing it, and let this reinforce it. But if you’ve struggled with being regularly physically active, if you’ve had ideas about it that it’s painful, and hard, and tiring, we’re going to correct that. It’s going to give you energy and reduce your pain. You’re going to feel better. And you’re not going to have to make yourself hurt to do it.

Yes, it requires some action, some initiative, and occasionally feeling a little uncomfortable. But I promise you it will not be hard.

There’s an incredible amount of benefits to physical activity, and it’s for a clear reason: our bodies were designed for it.

How to Begin …Today!

Think about starting today. Today, use your body a little bit more. Pay attention to your body and how it’s feeling. Move your shoulders, your neck, your hips. Feel your toes and fingers. Pay attention to your body, your posture, your breathing. Take an opportunity to walk for a few minutes, or just stand a little more. Take the opportunity to squat, kneel, lunge, hang, push, pull, or walk up the stairs. Whatever it is you’re capable of doing.

Man standing on stairs smiling wearing vegan tshirt

Rather than looking at two trips up the steps as tiring and something to be avoided, look at it as your trip to the gym. This will work for you. Embrace this paradigm of physical activity. You’ll not regret it.

In the post ahead, we’ll begin to outline the holistic approach to a movement habit that provides good health.

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Physical Activity and Movement Part 2

Before we get into the details of the movement program, I want to emphasize that this is meant to be fun. You have to drop your previous thoughts about exercise as work. This program cannot be something you ought to do, or should do, or have to do. If that’s the case, you’ll always have to apply significant willpower to get started. And we know from my other teachings that willpower can only take you so far.

Where Do I Start?

If you’re on a quest for your best health, then you have to start with a strong desire to experience your best health. Desire is the rocket fuel for reaching your goals. Desire is based on intrinsic inspiration. With that comes intrinsic motivation. You’ll not have to motivate yourself, it will just become what you do. It will feel natural and good. In fact, it will be hard not to follow this program once you make it your habit. It will become such an automated part of your daily behavior and habits that it will feel strange not to apply these principles.

When you’re taking the long view of movement, there is no rush.

This is supposed to feel good and be fun. You have the freedom to take it very slowly. We’re approaching this from the long view, not the short view. The short view is what feels good in a particular moment, and we often end up giving up our long-term goals to whatever will help us feel better in the moment. I’ve discussed this at length in my blogs. It’s why I’ve emphasized the role of mindset, habit formation, understanding your desires, and how to develop willpower so that it can assist you in hardwiring your new habits of health.

When you’re taking the long view of movement, there is no rush. You don’t have to drop 30 pounds in 6 weeks, flaunt six-pack abs, or complete a competition by a particular timeline. You’re just simply thinking about how to wake up each day a little healthier. You’re thinking about how 5 years from now, your body will be working well for you, and you’ll delight in what it can do for you.

The long view does not take heroic efforts. It simply takes a little daily focus. That’s the wonderful thing about this. I think you’ll appreciate the small, simple steps that you’ll be able to take that will reduce pain, improve function, give you energy, improve your sleep and mood, and help you experience your best health.

Visualize Your Movement

So Step 1 in this program is to do a little visualization. We’re going to stop and close our eyes, breathe easy, and just relax for a moment. I’ve provided other blogs that talk about the power of visualization and how it awakens our creative mind and integrates both hemispheres of our brain. When it’s combined with positive meditation and contemplation, it creates a powerful thinking and feeling state. The more we visualize what it is we wish to become, the more likely we will be to achieve that goal. It’s a simple principle that’s been proven over and over again. It does not take long.

The long view does not take heroic efforts. It simply takes a little daily focus.

You’re going to close your eyes and breathe, take a moment and just relax. While you do this, I want you to smile. Smiling will immediately make you feel better. Regardless of whatever limitations you have, think about how grateful you are to have this body and that you’re able to experience life through this body. Think about how it works for you, and how you want it to work for you. Think about how good it would feel, every day, to have this body be able to work to its highest potential for you, again, regardless of whatever limitations you have.

Woman with long hair reflecting while sitting and looking at waterfall.

Begin By…

While you do this, do a scan of your body. Feel your fingers. Move them. Feel the muscles and the tendons in your fingers work properly. Wiggle your toes. Bring your attention to your jaw, and relax it. Relax your neck. Feel your breathing, and the muscles of your chest and your diaphragm assisting you in your breathing. Feel your core muscles and how they hold your body up against gravity. Experience the feelings in your hips and legs as you gently pedal them back and forward. Take delight in this physical body.

In your mind…

Picture how good it feels to get up and use your body, how nice it feels to move it through space and to experience its function.

Think about how good it would feel to swim in cool water, or hike up a challenging slope to an incredible vista.

Reminisce about how good it feels to take a walk in nature, by yourself, with friends or family members, or with a beloved pet.

Recall how good it feels to experience the world through this body.

Now you’re going to imagine what it would be like to do this every day. What would it be like to use your body to improve your own health? What do you need to do to maximize the experience of enjoyment of your own body?

You’ll Need Awareness

It’s very important that you begin to get in touch with your body, feel your body, and understand your body. You have to have awareness of your own body, and awareness of what you desire for it, if you want to achieve your goals.

One of the foundational principles of daily movement habits is simply biomechanical awareness, or kinesthetic awareness.

It’s the sense of your body working rightly for you. It takes a heightened level of intentionality and awareness to notice this and begin to cultivate the movement patterns that help you to feel good. But you can do it. And as you do it, it takes less and less energy. Eventually, you won’t have to think about it at all. Your body will just function as it is meant to.

Doctor’s Conclusion

So I want you to think about how much fun this is, how relaxing it is, and how enjoyable it is. I want you to think about how maximizing the health of your biomechanical frame, and your mind, will give you the ability to experience life in the best way possible. You’ll get to go to the places and see the things that you desire. You will not be limited.

With this positive intention, we’ll move forward into some ideas about what it will take to optimize the health of your body through a physical activity habit.

Health Shepherds is on a mission to deliver personalized and compassionate healthcare. Follow us on Facebook and Instagram. Want to ask us a question? We’d love to hear from you. Feel free to contact us.

Physical Activity and Authentic Health Part 1

This is my new series on the many benefits of physical movement. Our bodies and minds are designed for activity. Just think about how we’re made: muscles, tendons, ligaments, bones, connective tissues, extremities. It’s clear that the physical use of our bodies is integral to the design of our body.

Use Your Body Properly

If you think of this from an ancestral standpoint, you’ll see that the human body adapted over millennia to engage in physical activities that promoted our survival. I’ve prescribed physical activity or exercise to my patients for the entire scope of my practice. Virtually everyone knows that they should exercise. The challenge is that it’s a form of work, that it can be fatiguing, that it can feel hard. For some, it also feels embarrassing. Many have bad memories from middle school or high school gym classes. A lot of people don’t enjoy being in gyms.

Being well-conditioned can be associated with good health, but it is not a definition of good health.

We tend to view the health aspect of physical activity as that of being exceptionally well-conditioned. Pop culture uses images of aesthetically pleasing physiques with six-pack abs performing incredible feats and training themselves in very intensive ways. Being well-conditioned can be associated with good health, but it is not a definition of good health. You don’t have to be exceptionally defined to be physically healthy; you just simply have to use your body properly.

People dancing

Why Adopt a Daily Movement Practice?

Throughout this series, we’ll describe what it means to adopt a daily movement practice that gives you back your best health. That’s the goal of this series. If your goal is to get your best time for an IronMan competition, or to win at the CrossFit Games, then this series isn’t going to be your primary source of information. There are many other professionals writing and producing excellent training programs for that level of fitness. This is about promoting and protecting your authentic health.

The pattern of activity I’m going to describe will feel refreshingly simple and liberating to many of you.

My suggestions are geared toward providing a way to your longest and healthiest lifespan, and enjoying how you feel in your own body. This is not going to be directly related to your weight, although it will help you maintain it. It also isn’t specifically related to how you look in your bathing suit, although you’ll certainly improve the odds of looking the way you want to by adopting these habits.

This is about feeling good every day and feeling good about yourself. The pattern of activity I’m going to describe will feel refreshingly simple and liberating to many of you. Even well-conditioned individuals I see in my practice who’ve exhausted themselves with intensive exercise have often felt liberated when I’ve explained this paradigm of physical activity to promote their best health. They feel like they finally have the freedom to just relax a little and take it easy, not to always push themselves to their edge.

Is This Movement Something I Can Do?

I occasionally will suggest that we push our limits. That is a part of maintaining good health. But it will not be nearly as often as you think it has to be, nor will you have to join a gym or buy exercise equipment to follow this program. This is done with just your body and whatever your environment allows for you.

People road biking on mountainside


I understand that many people have limitations based on prior injuries, or perhaps conditions they were born with. Not everybody has the freedom of movement that a completely healthy, and normally developed human body would have. Some are confined to wheelchairs, some have conditions or injuries that really restrict their ability to use their body to the fullness of its design. That does not matter. This is for everyone. Whatever your current context of physical health and capability, you can apply these principles to improve your health. It will still work for you.

This series is the truth of physical health. It is based on our body’s design and genetics. You can then take it as far as you want to go. If you want to become a high-performing endurance athlete, or a powerful gymnast, then by all means, go for it. But this program is for everyone to serve as a foundation for good physical health.

We focus on overall body movement with a few key principles about how to maximize your use of your body and the potential that’s integral to its design. Follow along with us. There is so much to learn!

If you’re interested in learning more about physical movement or a more personalized approach to healthcare, order the book Authentic Health, like us on Facebook, and follow us on Instagram!

Eating Behaviors and the Brain Part 8

Your brain regulates your energy balance and your body weight over a span of time. How this is done is complex, but a major influencer of weight and energy balance is an area of your brain called the lipostat, located in the hypothalamus. This is a non-conscious regulator of body weight and energy balance. That means you do not consciously control how this part of your brain regulates your weight. You cannot just change the setting and get a response the way you do with your thermostat in your home.

Lipostat, Hormones, and Regulation

The job of this area is to make sure you maintain a stable energy balance, and stable weight, over time regardless of external circumstances. This area of the brain will allow you to use stored energy when necessary, and allow you to regain stored energy when circumstances allow this to occur. Generally speaking, your genetics determine this set point for your weight. But it can be changed over time.

When your metabolic rate is lowered in response to cues from your brain, you’ll tend to feel tired, grumpy, brain-foggy, and have a whole host of other symptoms.

One of the influencers is the hormone leptin, which we discussed earlier. Leptin is released by your fat cells, and its job is to tell the brain how much energy we’ve just consumed, and how much excess energy we have stored up as fat. The more body fat we have, the more leptin will be in our blood.

The brain makes decisions based on leptin levels about:

  • Your hunger
  • Daily calorie intake
  • How much nutrients to absorb
  • How much energy to use and store

Then, it cycles back to regulate leptin production in a loop that will help keep your energy and body weight balanced over time. Your brain can increase energy expenditure by making you fidget and sweat. It can also decrease energy expenditure by lowering your metabolic rate. I talk about this in my book, Authentic Health.

When your metabolic rate is lowered in response to cues from your brain, you’ll tend to feel tired, grumpy, brain-foggy, and have a whole host of other symptoms. You think you have low thyroid, and in a way, you do. Your brain has downregulated thyroid function because it’s downregulating your metabolism to save energy. This is a situation we want to avoid. This is why we don’t recommend daily reduced calorie diets over a longer period of time.

Healthy salad with olive oil

Remember, when I say reduced calorie diet, I’m talking about for those who are eating appropriate calories. If you are consuming excess calories daily, you will need to reduce calorie intake to lose weight. I’m talking about eating in accordance with your energy demands. Long-term low-calorie diets will fail. Your body does not like this. It will regulate against it.

But right eating will restore healthy body weight over time in a natural way.

So if your stored energy, or fat, and leptin remain stable over time, then you’re going to be more easily satisfied during and between meals. You’ll be less hungry. You’ll naturally eat the proper amounts of food, and not eat again until an appropriate time interval. Also, your metabolic rate will stay high, and you’ll have good energy.

If stored energy and leptin drop over time, it’ll send a message to the area of the brain we discussed earlier that the body needs to start preventing starvation. The brain will use several strategies to do this.

It will make you hungry.

Like, really hungry.

Like you can’t control this level of hunger.

Willpower has nothing to do with it. It’s hormonal hunger.

Also, you’ll move around less. You’ll find yourself wanting to just sit around. You’ll think you’re lazy, but you’re not. In addition, your metabolic rate will slow down, as I just discussed.

Person balancing on rock in sunset

So you would think that if your stored energy, or fat, and leptin went up over time, you’d want to eat less. Well, that’s supposed to be true, but it doesn’t seem to always work that way. How much your leptin goes up when you eat will vary from person to person. How your brain responds to leptin also varies from person to person. Our physiologies vary a lot, as do our genetics. In some people, when the leptin rises, their brain will decrease their appetite, and it will increase their energy output. In others, it doesn’t seem to work the same way.

But for most people, most of the time, the leptin feedback loop works well to naturally regulate our energy expenditure and our consumption. Unless we disrupt it.

Doctor’s Conclusion

We’re going to discuss how we disrupt it in the next post. The point of this post was to give you a basic lesson in how your body is regulating its fat storage, and to let you know it’s not directly under your conscious control. Ultimately, your consistent habits over time will influence it, but today, you don’t get to choose. However, the choices you make today will make a difference a week from now, or a month from now. That’s good news.

As I emphasized, you do get to choose to choose. But you have to be willing to wake up and truly choose. Otherwise, your brain is going to continue to run the show, and as you’ll see in our next post, you will continue to struggle because the specific foods you choose to eat can actually change how the brain controls your eating behavior.

Health Shepherds is on a mission to deliver personalized and compassionate healthcare. Follow us on Facebook and Instagram. Want to ask us a question? We’d love to hear from you. Feel free to contact us.

Eating Behaviors and the Brain Part 5

How do we decide what we’re going to eat? There are two primary driving forces behind eating. 1) There is homeostatic eating, which is where we eat so we can get the energy and nutrients our body needs to maintain homeostasis or a normal internal environment. 2) Then, there is hedonic eating, which is where we eat for pleasure or to manage our emotional states.

Hormones and Eating

Almost all of our meals are a mix of both homeostatic and hedonic eating. There are many hormones that influence our appetite. One of them is known as ghrelin. It’s often called the hunger hormone. It will stimulate our appetite. It peaks before meals and falls to lower levels during and immediately after eating, as our body knows we’re now getting the energy and nutrients we need. But this is not the only hormone that influences our eating.

There’s also a hormone involved in satiety, or a feeling of satisfaction, called leptin. Leptin is secreted by our fat cells and helps regulate energy balance. What’s supposed to happen as we gain weight is that leptin levels will rise and tell an area of our brain that we should not eat as much, that we have adequately stored energy in our body. However, for many people, as they continue to gain weight, their leptin levels proceed to rise, but they continue to be very hungry. The brain stops listening to the leptin. This is thought to be due to leptin resistance and is one of the challenges of losing weight if you’ve had chronic obesity.

This is a hormonal issue, and not under your conscious control.

Doctor’s Conclusion

Your hunger and eating are shaped by many factors, including your genetics, social cues, learned behaviors, environmental factors, your circadian rhythms, hormones, stress and emotional states, getting enough sleep, and your physical activity. So you see, it’s very complicated. Science still does not have the secret to hunger and eating, although we’re getting closer. We don’t really understand everything that makes us start eating.

But we’ve learned a lot about what causes us to stop eating. There’s more on that in our next post in the series.

There is an uncomplicated and understandable truth about eating and health. We want to make it easy for you. Join us at Health Shepherds, follow us on Instagram, and like us on Facebook.