Workout and Community
Daniel Lieberman, an anthropologist at Harvard University, suggests that a buddy system involving exercising with friends is the optimal way to maintain exercise motivation. Engaging in exercise with someone fosters social connections, camaraderie, and a sense of responsibility, enhancing motivation.
Despite numerous studies demonstrating the benefits of exercise for physical and mental well-being, many individuals still struggle to commit to regular physical activity. In fact, the CDC reports that 75% of adults do not meet recommended levels of physical activity.
Lieberman’s research reveals that humans have both biological and cultural motivations to avoid exercise. Throughout evolution, humans prioritized energy expenditure for activities related to survival and reproduction, avoiding unnecessary exertion. Essentially, there is a genetic inclination to find exercise motivation challenging. Even Lieberman himself, conducting exercise research, acknowledges the difficulty of self-motivated exercise.
The social environment plays a crucial role. For instance, Lieberman opts to use stairs instead of elevators at work due to his role in exercise research, influenced by his colleagues’ recognition of this behavior. Running with friends is positioned not as exercise but as a social experience, thus motivating him. While this also entails the responsibility not to break promises.
Enhancing social connections and relationships among individuals can contribute to exercise motivation and ultimately, to overall physical and mental health. Joining services like Peloton, which offers online fitness classes, or participating in fitness communities are potential avenues. To meet your goals, why not start by finding a workout buddy?
Mindfulness and Mental Health
In the midst of countless daily tasks, interpersonal relationships, and the complexities of modern life, do you truly find moments to “breathe”? When you hit a dead end, stuck in a rut, or overwhelmed by life’s challenges, consider the practice of “mindfulness.”
Mindfulness is an approach derived from meditation deeply rooted in the cultures of India’s Buddhism and yoga. The English term “meditation,” originating from the Latin “meditaus” (to contemplate), signifies calm contemplation, which is its original essence.
Meditation practices vary widely, from seated practices to more dynamic activities like walking or even dancing. Scientific validation of meditation’s benefits has increased in recent years, attracting growing interest. According to the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH), the percentage of US adults practicing meditation has tripled from 2012 to 2017. Scientific evidence supports meditation’s effects on pain reduction, alleviating anxiety and depression, lowering blood pressure, and aiding smoking cessation.
From a cognitive science perspective, mindfulness practice enhances concentration, contributing not only to mental well-being but also to performance improvement. The act of focusing full awareness on the present moment, practiced repeatedly, strengthens certain brain circuits, resulting in heightened concentration. Mindfulness can be likened to “mental exercise.”
For about a year, I’ve been incorporating meditation as a form of relaxation using the content provided by Headspace on Netflix. In moments of too many tasks or busy nights after a hectic day, I follow voice instructions for meditation techniques tailored to my current state. While initially skeptical of its effects, consciously focusing on my breath has become a small source of tranquility amidst everyday chaos.
As the pandemic confined us to our homes, the boundary between “home” as a place of relaxation and “home” as a workspace became blurred. Amidst this blend of privacy and work, consider incorporating “mindfulness” into your routine as a way to find clarity and focus.
Habit Formation Through Saunas: The "Totonou" Incentive
“Despite numerous studies indicating the positive impact of exercise on mental and physical health and quality of life, 75% of individuals are not engaged in adequate physical activity.” This observation hits close to home. Even as a twenty-year-old, lacking in physical stamina compared to my mother, who celebrated her sixtieth birthday last year, I undeniably fall (rather embarrassingly) into the majority of the population characterized by physical inactivity and, more accurately, an unhealthy lifestyle.
Of course, I understand the merits of exercise and the resultant healthier lifestyle. According to BMC Medicine, individuals with lower fitness levels are twice as likely to develop depression as those with higher levels. Additionally, unhealthy eating leads to premature deaths of around 11 million people annually.
However, the inability to initiate a more active lifestyle stems from the inherent human tendency to prioritize short-term benefits over long-term gains. As observed in the field of behavioral economics, this is known as “present bias.” For us, the immediate pleasures of a delicious meal or the enjoyment of “now” often override the contemplation of elongating a lifespan that may not even extend beyond a few decades.
Therefore, to establish a healthy habit, mechanisms offering short-term and easily comprehensible incentives, substituting for the long-term benefits of health, are necessary.
Such reward systems can be artificially designed. For instance, NIKE RUN CLUB motivates people by transforming the abstract notion of becoming healthier through running into achieving smaller milestones, such as reducing the difference between their goal distance and their current distance or competing with friends. Pokémon GO replaces the rewards of walking with the adventure of capturing Pokémon, a more exciting experience.
Moreover, some cases naturally incorporate short-span incentives. Saunas, a rising trend, could be such an example. The book “LIFE SPAN: Why We Age―and Why We Don’t Have To” suggests that sauna usage contributes to health maintenance, based on several studies. However, few people primarily use saunas for health purposes. As a recent sauna enthusiast, I have become drawn to the unique sensation of “totonou” (a state of comfort and wellness) while alternating between sauna and cold baths.
Similar to sauna enthusiasts, experiencing the sensation of “totonou” may become an immediate benefit that contributes to forming a long-term habit of healthier living, rather than being burdened by guilt over succumbing to short-term pleasures.
Instead of feeling guilty about succumbing to short-term pleasures over long-term health, why not capitalize on such habits to build healthier routines? It might just be the first step towards leading a healthier daily life.
The science of laughter and why it's good for us (CNN)
“Smiling” has a positive impact on human relationships and mental and physical well-being. Research indicates that since ancient times, humans have used smiles to signal comfort to those around them. The act of laughter involves chest movement that allows for increased oxygen intake, stimulating the brain and reducing adrenaline levels, thereby decreasing stress and excessive emotional reactions.
Social isolation in the U.S. rose even as the Covid crisis began to subside, new research shows. (NYT)
Many Americans distanced themselves from friends and family during the pandemic, leading to feelings of social isolation. Surprisingly, even as the public health crisis began to ease and communities reopened, suggests that feelings of isolation increased among many, highlighting the challenge of recovering from social isolation.
Social Determinants of Health: Technology, examples and healthcare trends in 2021
Healthcare organizations, health tech, and the field of health are increasingly focusing on social determinants of health (SDOH). CDC’s SDOH categories include factors such as access to healthy food, lifestyle elements like transportation and housing prices, employment, income, insurance, healthcare, social participation, and discrimination. These factors collectively indicate the need for integrated environmental improvements to enhance health.