Category Archives: Physical Health

Things to do While Walking

Whether you’ve been participating in National Walking Month 2016 or just do a lot of walking in general, we thought we’d give a few suggestions of things to do while walking.

As we listed in our Mental Health Benefits of Walking article, walking is an easy, cheap exercise which is excellent for both physical and mental health.

Listen to something

Music (whether it’s the tunes you love or something new) is the obvious choice here, but podcasts, newspaper articles, and audiobooks are excellent for longer walks. Podcasts on many subjects are easy to find from various sources, and a directory of free audiobooks can be found at the Open Culture website.

Link [via Open Culture]

Call someone

Walking time can also be a great time to catch up on family or friends. They can provide virtual company which helps to pass the time, and conversation with good friends is an excellent way to maintain good mental health. If you can talk for a long time with people on the phone, then they may also be good walking company if you want to invite someone along.

Take a photograph (or ten)

Depending on the time of day you go for a walk, you can have plenty of opportunity for taking photographs. You can challenge yourself by limiting yourself to just one photograph, or just go for it and take pictures of anything that takes your interest. These photos can act as a chronicle of your walks and the progress you’ve made.

Play a mental game

From playing a simple game of observance (“how many red cars will I see on my walk?”), to practising mindfulness, playing mental games whilst physically exercising is a great workout for body and brain.

Go on a tour

Depending on where you live, your town or city may have walking maps of local areas which can be found online, in tourist-friendly places (such as museums or art galleries), or in a local library. If such maps are not available to you, pick a landmark/spot you’ve seen from a distance or wanted to visit and go there.

Make plans

As with mental games, making plans whilst exercising can be an effective and beneficial use of time. Whether it’s a daily, weekly or general plan, thinking about which priorities to tackle once you get back home can give you a better perspective then thinking about them at home or at work.

Break it up

Whether it’s going down a street you’ve always wanted to explore, or aiming for a completely new area, anything that prolongs or varies your walk can help keep things fresh and interesting.

If you’re wanting to use technology to log your travels or get ideas for new routes, we suggest you check out our guide to walking apps:

Walking Apps – What’s Available

App Asks for GPS Art, Community Responds

The Mental Health Benefits of Walking

As May is National Walking Month 2016, we thought we’d look at the mental health benefits of walking.

The physical benefits of walking are well known. It’s an excellent form of easy exercise that burns fat, encourages bone density, lowers the risk of heart disease and diabetes, and can benefit memory functions. Walking is also excellent for mental health in the following ways:

Walking is exercise, and exercise improves mood

Any type of exercise releases endorphins, and walking is no exception. Endorphins are a hormone which calm and boost mood. A walk of 30 minutes is recommended to start releasing this hormone, but if you can’t walk for that length of time, you can supplement it on either time with gentle exercise such as stretching or even housework.

Walking gets you out and about

Some mental health issues are exacerbated by or have symptoms of isolation, either real or perceived. It’s easy to lose days without leaving the house or going out as little as possible, and walking can help break that cycle. Coupled with the mental health benefits of walking as mentioned above, getting out and about a little bit more can be the first step in improving mental health.

Walking takes time

It’s easy to feel overwhelmed by the depressive, stressed or anxious thoughts which can wear down mental health. Going for even a short walk can help to interrupt these though patterns, or give you a different space and perspective to tackle them. It also gives you something positive to incorporate into your routine to maintain good mental health.

Walking is cheap and easy

All you need are decent shoes and clothes for whatever weather you’re going out in. You don’t have to invest in any specialist clothing or equipment as you would with other “entry-level” physical activities such as jogging or cycling.

Walking helps you sleep

Exercise is a tiring activity, which can help provide a better night’s sleep. Good sleep is a crucial part of good mental health, as it give you, and your brain, the chance to properly rest and repair.

Walking takes you places

Going for a walk can be a way to discover a whole new side of familiar areas where you live or work. This change in routine and observance of new things can be an excellent way to divert your brain from depressive, stressed or anxious thoughts.

If you’re wanting to use technology to log your travels or get ideas for new routes, we suggest you check out our guide to walking apps:

Walking Apps – What’s Available

National Walking Month 2016

May is National Walking Month 2016. UK Organisation Living Streets is using the official event to launch its #Try20 campaign, which is tasking people with getting out and about for at least 20 minutes a day.

The campaign is highlighting the mental and physical benefits of walking. The website even has a “Walking Bingo” card to print out and use.

Living Streets has also teamed up with Westfield Health to run a #WHWalkingLunch challenge, which encourages workers to “reclaim their lunchbreak, get active and try to walk for twenty minutes in the middle of the day.”

National Walking Month 2016 [via Living Streets]

Walking Lunch Campaign [via Westfield Health]

If you’re wanting to use technology to log your travels or get ideas for new routes, we suggest you check out our guide to walking apps:

Walking Apps – What’s Available

App Asks For GPS Art, Community Responds

Fitness app company Endomondo recently ran a #TrackYourArt campaign which encouraged users to create some truly delightful GPS art.

The community of Endomondo users from around the world were asked to use the app to track their run, walk or cycle to make a line drawing. Entries include a gnome, spartan helmet, a dog, and the super-cute snail in the header of this article.

If you’re looking for a way to add a bit of variety to your walk, cycle or run, then this is certainly one way to do it.

The Winners of the #TrackYourArt Contest Are… [via Endomondo]

Further Reading: The Power of Napping

As important as a good night’s sleep is, the power of napping is undeniable when done right. Due to a pervasive 24-hour culture, napping has an unwarranted social stigma and association with laziness, which can lead to guilt and burnout. However, done the right way, a nap can be an essential boost to your day, helping you both mentally and physically. We’ve compiled some of the best tips and interesting facts about napping to help guide you to the land of quick nods.

The power of napping and sleep cycles

Napping has huge benefits to both brain and body, including (but not limited to): memory, mood, learning ability, alertness, productivity, blood pressure and even weight management. However, the timing of naps has to be considered in order to get the best results by working with humans’ natural sleep cycles and therefore avoiding oversleeping and drowsiness.

Link [via io9]

The benefits of a quick nap are generally determined by the length of the nap. Shorter naps are best for staving off tiredness, whilst longer naps can give a longer boost to your day. Knowing sleep cycles is an important way of determining the length of time for a nap.

Link [via The Art of Manliness]

Knowing how and when to nap

Not everybody needs to nap, and if you are needing the type of sleep which naps cannot fulfil, then you may need to examine your sleep patterns and habits in more depth rather than papering over the cracks by napping.

Link [via Time]

Once you’ve familiarised yourself with sleep cycles and whether you need to nap or not, it’s time to settle down and get ready to get the most out of your nap. Whether it’s a one-off or habitual nap, preparing the right environment for a nap is crucial to experience its benefits.

Link [via Lifehacker]

Napping in history and around the world

The most famous type of nap is most likely the siesta. This habit has a long and fascinating history, which stretches far beyond Spain and far into our ancient history.

Link [via Slumberwise]

Further Reading: Quitting Bad Habits

Quitting a bad habit can be just as valuable as gaining a good one. We’ve collected information on the latter in our Further Reading: Forming New Habits, so it’s time to look at the former.

Idea collective

There are many different methods to quitting bad habits, and Lifehacker’s top 10 in an excellent place to start for inspiration. Each of the ideas are backed up by an additional article for more reading, and the user comments are very helpful, too.

Link [via Lifehacker]

Habit replacement

Quitting bad habits is an excellent opportunity to replace them with a good one. Habit blogger James Clear has written this excellent article on just that. Full of good observation on factors such as triggers and stress, his blog in general is an excellent resource on habits and their formation.

Link [via James Clear]

Mindfulness and quitting bad habits

In 2015, Psychiatrist Judson Brewer presented this TedMed talk about using mindfulness to help with quitting bad habits. He explains the way the brain works in establishing a bad habit, and then how the very same process can used in conjunction with mindfulness to retrain the brain.

Tea Time: Benefits of Types of Tea

There’s nothing quite like a good cup of tea, so we thought we’d look at the various benefits of types of tea out there.

Pu-Erh

Pu-Erh is an earthy tea with a distinct flavour. Some people find it to be an acquired taste, but it’s worth it for the benefits.  Pu-Erh is said to aid digestion and fat burning, as well as helping to lower cholesterol and stress levels.

Chamomile

Made from flowers, chamomile tea is renowned for its calming properties. Often used as a relaxant before sleep, it also settles the stomach and helps with symptoms of diabetes.

Mint

Mint tea is an excellent digestive, helping ease the symptoms of cramping, bloating and gastric discomfort by helping move gas through the body. Its digestive properties also help with bowel problems from diarrhea to constipation. Whilst mint teabags are easy to find, the best way to experience mint tea is with fresh leaves from the plant itself.

Lemon & Ginger

Like mint tea, it’s recommended to make lemon and ginger tea with fresh ingredients for the best flavour and effect. Whilst both can be drunk separately, the combination of both makes for a refreshing and effective way to combat a cold, or preventone happening in the first place. For added zing, add fresh chopped chilli.

Ginseng

Ginseng tea is a great booster – it enhances energy, the immune system and apparently even sexual energy. It’s also another great digestive to add to the list.

Another factor in tea making is preparation. There’s an excellent at-a-glance guide to factors such as temperature, brewing time and tea types here.

Link [via Itoen]

Further Reading: How to Boost Learning Ability

Whether you’ve been inspired by our Top Websites for Online Learning, or are just wanting to boost learning ability in general, here are some articles we’ve found that explore how to improve cognitive performance

Know your learning style

Knowing what type of learner you are is a good first step and can be a real eye-opener, and help you work to your strengths. Most people learn via a mix of auditory, visual and tactile means, and this short quiz can help show which type of learning you lean towards.

Link [via Learning Without Boundaries]

Absorbing information and best practice

Do you find yourself reading information but not absorbing it? One person asked users of the crowdsourcing Personal Productivity platform of the Stack Exchange website for their tips and insight, and it’s useful reading. There are no easy answers, but plenty of good advice.

Link [via Personal Productivity Stack Exchange]

Another site with an excellent breakdown of study solutions, Academic Tips gives advice on how to tackle boredom, improving your note-taking and memory, and even how to set up study areas.

Link [via Academic Tips]

Learning about learning

A recent study into the relationship between aerobic physical activity and cognitive performance has shown that one way to improve memory is to have an active lifestyle.

Link [via Harvard Medical School]

Learning new motor skills can be easier if you play fast-paced video games. A study by the University of Toronto found that playing action games led to people picking up skills such as typing or riding a bike quicker than non-gamers.

Link [via The Telegraph]

 

Further Reading: Forming New Habits

The time it takes for forming new habits is something that’s been up for debate for quite a while now. We’ve compiled some of the best reads out there on the subject.

The history of habits

19th-century Psychologist William James was one of the leading modern researchers into habit, and its relationship with character and personality. His insights into “habit loops” and the process of acquiring new habits were pioneering for the time, and still relevant today.

Link [via Brain Pickings]

No easy answers

Recent research has found that there is no magic time scale to forming new habits, either. In fact, the idea of 21/30/90 day solutions is down to historical misunderstanding rather than fact. The truth it is, forming a new habit takes as long as it takes.

Link [via James Clear]

Insight into the mind

Forming new habits is a mixture of routine, willpower and reminders. Psychologist and owner of Psyblog Jeremy Dean published Making Habits, Breaking Habits: Why We Do Things, Why We Don’t, and How to Make Any Change Stick in 2013.  It’s an excellent and approachable exploration of the psychology of forming new habits.

Link [via Amazon.co.uk]

Personal experience

While overviews of psychology and history are interesting and helpful, personal experience can’t be overlooked. Here’s one person’s story of how they trained themselves to be a (very) early riser in order to live a healthier lifestyle. Getting up at 05:00 may be a bit extreme for some, but this person’s story show how the right triggers and motivation can help fuel willpower.

Link [via Smart Productive Work]

Walking Apps – What’s Available

The physical and mental benefits of walking are well known, so we thought we’d look out some of the walking apps available to aid the experience.

The apps can be split into two types: Activity Measurement (pedometers), and Route Mapping. It’s worth bearing in mind that any app that uses GPS may be a drain on your smartphone’s battery. It’s also worth checking to see what the weather will be like if you’re planning a big walk!

Activity Measurment Walking Apps

Accupedo (Android, iOS)

Walking apps - AccupedoDesigned to be a “daily walking buddy”, Accupedo acts as a pedometer and a hub of information which logs information on distance, calorie burn and step count. All the information is collected and displayed on daily, weekly, monthly or yearly charts so you can see your progress.

Link

Endomondo (Android, iOS, Windows)Walking apps - Endomondo

A “personal trainer in your pockets”, Endomondo is designed for encouraging motivation through distance sports whether it’s walking, running or cycling. It provides activity logs, calorie burn and distance measurements, too. If you’re wanting to take your walking to the next level, this may be the app for you.

Link

Moves (Android, iOS)

Walking apps - movesThe “activity diary of your life”, Moves is a very funky-looking app that automatically records any physical activity you undertake. It also automatically records steps, distance, duration, and calorie burn. These activities are displayed as a “daily storyline”, which helps give insight into activity. You also have the option of adding extra activity such as gym training.

Link

 

Route Mapping Walking Apps

Walkit (Android, iOS)

walking apps - walkitDeveloped as an “urban walking route planner”, Walkit allows users to get routes between two points and view journey time, step count, calorie burn, and even carbon saving. It also allows you to explore other people’s recommended routes and tailored information for 70+ cities all across the UK.

Link

Viewranger (Android, iOS, Kindle Fire)

walking apps - viewranger

If the great outdoors is more your thing, then Viewranger might just be the walking app for you. You can plot your own trails or those made by other users. It’s a hub of information, tips and insights generated by its active and dedicated worldwide community

Link

MapMyWalk (Android, iOS)

walking apps - mapmywalk

A very popular app that uses GPS to track your activities and report back on distance, duration, route and calorie burn. You can also record and save walks taken to upload and share with other users. This means that you can also access other user’s routes to add variety to your walking workout.

Link