Shocking!!! 13 facts about marine plastic pollution!

At this point in time, talking about plastic pollution in the ocean may seem futile. We are faced with so many other crises that are affecting our health, our economy, our jobs, our livelihoods and our climate. 

Leave the beach clean
This should be on every beach in the world…

However, with climate change, things have accelerated at an alarming rate. We have now entered a period in history where we need to act quickly for the survival of our planet and, eventually, the human race. We have been too reliant on the government to take action but so far very little has been done. The extent of the work to be done is so huge that I thought for many years that I alone couldn’t do anything to help. Having spent many years as a dive instructor in various oceans around the world, I have seen first hand the damage done to the sea. Being aware is not enough. I had to take some sort of action. So now my daughter and I have a mission. We live in Mallorca and every single time we go into the sea we collect plastic. This is a huge task. But we have started it one plastic bag at a time. Either swimming, kayaking, snorkelling or with our paddleboard. All we need is will power, patience and enthusiasm. I also wanted to share with you the shocking facts about marine plastic pollution. Hopefully, this raises your awareness even more and prompts you to take action too!

marine plastic pollution
Seabirds often get entangled in old disused fishing nets.

13 shocking facts about marine plastic pollution!

  • It has been estimated that 8 million tonnes of this plastic waste enters the ocean every year. If we carry on at this rate we face an ocean with more plastic than fish by 2050.
  • Single-use plastic is everywhere in our lives, it wraps our food, our technology, and the vast majority of our consumer goods. What is shocking is that single-use plastics, primarily made from fossil fuel-based chemicals, are meant to be disposed of right after use, often within minutes, but will outlive us by hundreds of years. They will end up in landfills, littering our landscape and destroying our oceans. 80% of marine plastic pollution originates from landfills.
  • Global plastics consumption is predicted to grow dramatically, to reach close to 400 million tonnes a year by 2025.
  • It has been documented that five countries in Asia (China, Indonesia, the Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam) are estimated to account for as much as 60% of the plastic waste entering the Ocean.
  • The plastic debris floating on the ocean surface accounts for only 5% of all the plastic trash dumped into the sea; the other 95% is submerged beneath the surface.
  • Many of the products we use in our day to day like toothpaste, face wash, abrasive cleaners, etc,  also include billions of tiny pieces of plastic, called microbeads. These microbeads are small enough to easily pass through water filtration and sewage treatment systems to end up polluting the Ocean.
  • Biodegradable plastics are an alternative to conventional plastics. However, they are not a long term solution as they are expensive to produce, energy-intensive and they may encourage us to believe that it’s ok to throw them away anywhere because they are biodegradable. Furthermore, they remain highly toxic and dangerous to marine animals if ingested
  • Plastic pollution threatens food safety and quality, human health, coastal tourism, and contributes to climate change.
  • Floating plastic waste has been shown to accumulate in 5 subtropical Gyres that cover 40 per cent of the world’s oceans. There are five major Gyres: the North and South Pacific Subtropical Gyres, the North and South Atlantic Subtropical Gyres, and the Indian Ocean Subtropical Gyre.
  • The most visible and disturbing impacts of marine plastics are the ingestion, suffocation and entanglement of hundreds of marine species. Marine wildlife such as seabirds, whales, fish and turtles mistake plastic waste for prey, swallow them and consequently die of starvation as their stomachs are filled with plastic debris. They also suffer from lacerations, infections, reduced ability to swim, and internal injuries. Floating plastics also contribute to the spread of invasive marine organisms and bacteria, which disrupt ecosystems.
  • Invisible plastic has been identified in tap water, beer, salt and is present in all samples collected in the world’s oceans, including the Arctic. Several chemicals used in the production of plastic materials are known to be carcinogenic and to interfere with the body’s endocrine system, causing developmental, reproductive, neurological and immune disorders in both humans and wildlife.
Marine plastic pollution on the beach
Our beaches are a sad reminder of our plastic dumping in the sea.
  • Plastic debris often contains chemicals added during manufacture that can absorb and concentrate contaminants such as pesticides, heavy metals and persistent organic pollutants (e.g. polychlorinated biphenyls or PCBs). These harmful substances can transfer into the tissue of aquatic species like the fish we consume, and subsequently into humans.
  • The main sources of marine plastic are land-based, from our cities, sewer overflows, beach visitors, inadequate waste disposal, industrial activities, construction and illegal dumping. Ocean-based plastic originates mainly from the fishing industry, nautical activities and aquaculture.

What can we do?

  1. Stop using plastic and create new habits.

Ninety per cent of the plastic items in our daily lives are used once and then chucked: grocery bags, plastic wrap, disposable cutlery, straws, coffee-cup lids. Refuse plastic whenever possible. We must wean ourself off disposable plastics, say no to straws, lids, plastic bags, and plastic takeaway containers. Instead carry our own reusable mugs, glass water bottles, cloth bags to the stores, wooden utensils, etc. Replace plastic items at home with alternatives made from natural materials (bamboo toothbrushes, glass jars, wooden toys).

 

2. Stop buying water.

Each year, close to 20 billion plastic bottles are tossed in the trash, many of them will end up in the ocean. Carry a reusable bottle in your bag, and use your local tap water. If you’re nervous about the quality of your local tap water, it is worth investing in a reverse osmosis water unit. We all carry our own reusable bottles now and use our home filtered water supply.

plastic water bottle
20 million plastic water bottles are trashed every year…

3. Cook more at home.

Not only is it healthier and cheaper in the long run, but also making your own meals from the comfort of your own home doesn’t involve takeout containers or doggy bags. Purchase loose fruits and vegetables or shop at the farmers market. For those times when you do order in or eat out, tell the restaurant you don’t need any plastic cutlery or cups or plates. I have to admit that one positive aspect of the lockdown period is that it did oblige me and my family to eat in. We have thoroughly enjoyed it and we all took turns to cook, add variety to our meals, and be creative with our shopping.

4. Recycle More!

The plastic you put in the bin ends up in a landfill. Some of this plastic rubbish will end up in the river and eventually in the ocean, during transport or being swept away by the wind. 

It seems obvious, but we’re not doing a great job of it. For example, less than 14 per cent of plastic packaging is recycled. So let’s make a conscious effort and recycle more.

5. Whenever possible buy second hand.

Many second-hand items have barely been used. Start searching online, at your local charity shop, thrift store or your local neighbourhood garage sale, you will be surprised to see how many items you can buy at a fraction of the new price, still in impeccable condition and without plastic packaging, hard to crack shells and twisty ties. Also by reusing these items yourself, you are making sure they don’t end up in landfills in your countryside.

landfill
Is this where all our trash ends up?

6. Stop throwing down the drain!

Many of the products we use daily are flushed down toilets, including wet wipes, cotton buds, dental floss and sanitary products. Microfibres are even released into waterways when we wash our clothes in the washing machine. Microbeads found in so many beauty products once flushed down the drain may end up being consumed by small marine species, eventually even ending up in our food chain.

7. Start buying in bulk.

Stop buying Single-serving products, travel-size toiletries, tiny packages of nuts.  Instead, start buying in bulk. Consider the product-to-packaging ratio of items you tend to buy often and select the bigger container instead of buying several smaller ones over time. Bring your own glass container or mesh bags and buy grains, nuts, and other items in the bulk section.

8. Take action!

It is time to take action! Whenever you see plastic in nature, or in the streets, please collect it, put it in the bin or, even better, recycle it. Litter dropped on the street doesn’t stay there. Rainwater and wind carry plastic waste into streams and rivers and through drains. Drains lead to the ocean!

Careless and improper waste disposal is also a big contributor – illegal dumping of waste adds greatly to the plastic surge in our seas.

My conclusion.

When I read these facts, I was at first in denial. After some time, my feelings went from resignation and deep sadness to embracing the need to take immediate action.

I have realised that living to 100 does not just involve my health and well being, but it is also about caring for our beautiful planet and our future generations. So in the future when I am 80 or 90 I can take my grandkids diving and show them how amazing our blue planet really is.

As I said before I hope this prompts you to take action, for you and our future generations.

Take care my friends, until next week!

Smart Living To 100.

This is how meditation increases your lifespan!

It’s seven in the evening, on a beach in the north of Mallorca, Spain. The sun is low on the horizon and the evening breeze is cooling us. I feel physically tired from my 90 mins martial arts training and mentally drained from my stressful day at work. It’s hard to unwind. Quan, my friend and Wing Chun instructor offers to teach me meditation. After a brief explanation, we sit cross-legged facing the ocean. 30 mins later, I emerged from this meditation a new man. I had tapped into my inner ocean of calm and tranquillity, and therefore had reduced my stress and anxiety and somehow felt physically refreshed. This was 12 years ago, and since then I have not stopped learning about meditation and of course, practising it. At the time all this felt a bit mystical to me. Now backed by research and science, I realise the benefits of meditation far exceed my imagination. In this article, I want to share with you how meditation can be beneficial for us, in our pursuit of a happier, healthier and longer life.  

Man meditating on the beach
Some of my most profound meditations have been in nature…

In a research from the University of California, 30 participants were asked to meditate for 6 hours a day for 3 months. Their meditation was centred on mindfulness, focusing solely on breathing, being present in the moment, and on feelings of love, kindness and compassion towards others.

After the three months, they compared them with non-meditators.  The meditators had on average about 30% more activity of the enzyme telomerase than the non-meditators. Telomerase is responsible for repairing telomeres, the structures located on the ends of chromosomes, which, like the plastic caps at the tips of shoelaces, prevent the chromosome from unravelling and fraying. Each time a cell reproduces, its telomeres become shorter and less effective at protecting the chromosome, and this, in turn, is a cause of ageing. As the chromosome becomes more and more vulnerable, cell copying becomes sloppier and eventually stops when the telomeres disintegrate completely. 

 Shorter telomere length in cells is also linked with poorer immune system functioning, cardiovascular disease, and degenerative conditions like osteoporosis and Alzheimer’s disease.

So this implies, people with higher levels of telomerase can possibly slow down ageing and show overall psychological improvements. The longer the telomere, the more times a cell can divide and refresh. 

For many years it’s been widely accepted in the scientific community of the benefits of meditation. In less than 8 weeks of regular practise, one can notice a substantial reduction in stress and anxiety levels, lower blood pressure, and enhanced happiness. Although these benefits are fairly immediate, meditation practices can have a long-lasting positive impact, that can potentially add years to our lives and improve cognitive function well into old age.

Starting at the cellular level, meditation seems to affect the physical body in different ways.  Scientists have isolated length of telomeres and telomerase as indicators of cellular aging. 

Telomere shortening happens naturally as we age, but research now shows that it can be accelerated by stress, speeding up the ageing process of the body.

Buddhist monk meditating
My trips to thailand helped me to learn and practice meditation.

In 2004 research, Elissa S. Epel and her team found that psychological stress is significantly correlated with shorter telomere length in leukocytes, antibody cells that fight disease. The study compared telomere length of two groups of premenopausal mothers. One caring for a chronically ill child and pre-identified to have higher objective stress and the other of mothers with a healthy child with lower objective stress.  Women with the highest levels of perceived stress in the study had telomeres shorter on average by the equivalent of one decade of additional ageing compared to low-stress women. In a 2009 follow-up paper, Epel’s research team suggested that mindfulness meditation may also have potentially positive effects on the preservation of telomere length and telomerase activity.

As they predicted, results revealed that those with more experience in meditation had longer telomere length overall, compared to women non-meditators. These findings further support meditation’s positive effect on reducing stress levels and healthy cellular ageing.

Another way meditation may help slow ageing is through its effects on the brain.  Depending on the individual, our brain’s grey matter ( part of the brain that helps with our, learning, memorising, focusing, balancing, coordination and more…) volume typically decreases from the age of 30 at varying rates. With time we also lose white matter ( responsible for the smooth and proper operation of the nervous system) volume and enter a slow structural degeneration. Meditation has been shown to alter our individual brain structure and potentially reduce this brain degeneration, in order for us to maintain our cognitive function sharp and thrive for many years. The effects on the brain don’t stop there. Using magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) researchers have shown that cortical thickness of meditators aged 40-50 was similar to non-meditators age 20-30. So meditation may support the preservation of brain structure over time.

It is clear that meditation cannot stop the natural ageing process. However, these findings strongly suggest that meditation is a helpful tool to slow down the brain structure degeneration, reducing stress levels and adding years or possibly a decade to your lifespan.

Be happy, healthy and live to 100!
Meditation will help you live happy and healthy until your 100th birthday!!!

It’s a no brainer in my books, and it’s one of my non negotiable strategies for living to 100.

It has become a pillar of my daily routine. Up at 5 am, when my body is rested, and my mind is still in that semi daydreaming state. It’s the best moment to focus solely on breathing, feeling love and compassion for others, being in the present moment and filling my mind with gratitude. 

That’s how I start my day. In these challenging times, that many of us are experiencing, I have found huge comfort and peace in my meditation practice.

I hope you try it too!

Take care my friends until next week.

Smart Living To 100

How to feel good instantly with NLP anchoring!

Wouldn’t you love to feel good for no reason, or to be able to trigger empowering images just with a simple technique, or maybe to instantly slip into relaxation?  I don’t know about you but that sounds great to me and this can be easily done using a  Neuro-Linguistic Programming( NLP) technique called Anchoring.  In this article, I will share with you what is anchoring, how to use it and how you can instantly apply it. 

  Your life has been affected by anchors, even though you may not have set them up intentionally. For example, hearing a song on the radio that reminds you of your high school date when you had a crush. Just by hearing this song, you are transported back to that moment and probably start feeling the same emotions that flooded your mind and body at that time.  I have been using this anchoring for many years and it has helped me to maintain calm, happy and relaxed even through difficult times. It is part of my arsenal of techniques and tricks that will assist me in living to 100. Keep reading and by the end of this article, you too will be able to instantly feel good for no particular reason. Pretty cool hey!!!

Nlp anchoring feeling relaxed
Tap into immediate relaxation with NLP anchoring.

So what is NLP Anchoring?

Bandler & Grinder founders of NLP define it as:

“Anchoring refers to the tendency for any one element of an experience to bring back the entire experience”.

The most famous example of NLP anchoring was demonstrated by a Russian scientist called Ivan Pavlov. He rang a bell every time he fed his dog. Very quickly the dog was associating the smell and taste of food with the sound of the bell. Sometimes he would ring the bell and the dog would start salivating even if no food was present. He was able to prove that an external trigger ( the bell ) caused a physiological response from the dog (salivation ) in the absence of food or smell.  

The same can be applied to humans. We can use NLP anchoring to psychologically associate a signal or trigger with a physiological response (an emotion, mood or mental state) of your choice. The trigger or” Anchor” can be squeezing your fingers together, placing your hand on your heart or on your chest, or snapping a rubber band on your wrist.  We usually want to elicit a positive physiological response like a feel-good emotion, a relaxing mood, an empowering state of mind, or simply a happy feeling.

This NLP anchoring also works if you are drowning in negative emotion. Just by triggering a positive emotion, you can extinguish the negative one, and if you repeat it enough times it will disappear altogether. When you master this NLP anchoring technique you can choose to experience peace, joy, gratitude or relaxation no matter what is happening in your life.

NLP anchoring can be especially useful in clearing the past. Often we hold positives as random experiences and negatives as patterns. By intentionally anchoring positive experiences, the brain can also experience them as patterns, furthering brain integration.

By now you must be dying to give NLP anchoring a go!!! 

feeling happy
How to feel happy instantly!!!

5 Easy Steps to learning NLP Anchoring Technique:

1. Think of how you want to feel (e.g. confident, happy, calm, loving, empowered, etc.). For this example I will pick, feeling happy!

2. Pick a place on your body where you would like to place this anchor. This could be grabbing your wrist, tapping your chest, a clap, a gesture, pinching your fingers, touching your knuckle or squeezing a fingernail. This physical touch will allow you to trigger the positive feeling at will. It doesn’t matter where you choose, as long as it is unique. For example, give your right index and your right thumb two long squeezes.

3. Think of a time in the past when you felt that state (happiness in this case). Mentally go back to that time and float into your body, looking through your own eyes and reliving that memory. See what you saw, hear what you heard and feel the feeling as you remember that memory. You will begin to feel that state of happiness invading you as you pay attention to all the details of that happy memory. The more intense the experience that you are having at the time of setting the anchor the stronger the response is going to be. It is important to add as many senses as possible to your happy memory. Pay attention to the images you are seeing, how bright or colourful they are. Sounds are important too. Did you hear voices, a particular piece of music, or simply a noise, how loud were they, etc? In that memory, also recall where in your body you felt this happiness, did you have butterflies in your stomach, did you experience this well being in your head, did it move up and down your body or did it stay still.

 Don’t view the memory from a distance; the feelings won’t come back. You’ve got to ‘be there’ again.

Relive the memory until you begin to feel the happiness coming over you in the same way you felt it at the time.

4. Just at that precise moment apply the anchor you have chosen ( in this case squeezing my right thumb and index twice) and check that the desired state of relaxation occurs again. Hold this anchor squeezed for a few seconds, until just before the feeling of happiness starts decreasing. Then you can release the anchor. As you do the second squeeze, make the picture of the happy moment larger, bringing it closer to you, and imagine the happy feeling multiplying in strength.

5. You may need to repeat the anchoring process a number of times to make the experience sufficiently intense and to encode it into your neurology.

What is happening in our brains when we do this?

 Our body is controlled by our Nervous System. Consciously and Unconsciously. So nerves are running through our body. When you press with your right index finger on your right thumb it is registered by the nervous system that you press. This pressure takes a fraction of time to be registered by the brain. Hence why you hold your fingers together before the happy memory and you release them just as the memory starts decreasing. 

 By using this anchor, you are psychologically associating this neural signal with a “happy” state of mind. Therefore it stands to reason that the more times you lay the anchor (as above) and the more clarity you have in the feeling, the better this technique will work. This is known as conditioning.

Diving a wreck in Thailand
My personal NLP anchoring memory

ONE OF MY MOST POWERFUL ANCHORS

This anchor brings me back to our holiday in Thailand. We decided to spend 4 weeks trekking from Koh kut, Koh Chang all the way north to Chiang Mai. While in Koh chang I booked myself on the best wreck dive in Koh Chang, the HTMS Chang Wreck.

  Formally known as the USS Lincoln County, HTMS Chang is Thailand’s longest wreck at 117 metres / 384 feet and sits at 30 metres / 100 feet underwater. After more than 50 years’ service in the Royal Thai Navy, it was sunk in 2012 to create an artificial reef.

I was so excited as I boarded the dive boat. I was paired with a Russian diver, as I was the only one on the boat who could utter a few words in Russian.

The second I hit the water and started descending in the deep blue, I was invaded by an immense feeling of well being and deep happiness. During my descent I felt the warm water around my face, my ears softly adjusted to the pressure, the colours fading as the deep blue took hold. As the shadow of the wreck appeared, I enter a huge school of fish, all pointing in the same direction and calmly swimming in the current. Thousands of them surround me, I looked up and still could see the boat, the sun and more divers descending. It was utter bliss, I felt so happy, grateful and fulfilled at that precise moment that my eyes fill up with joyful tears. The emotion was intense and probably lasted for a minute or 2. I was noticing everything. The sounds of the bubbles coming out of the regulator, the fish crunching on the coral, another diver humming a tune…As I slowly glided around the wreck, I noticed a few more eels, some lazy stonefish, snappers dancing around the mast, it was absolutely bursting with marine life...and then it was time to ascend back to the real world. Finally I climbed the ladder to the boat and sat down to remove all my diving equipment and although my body was out of the water, my mind was still 30m below the waves.

I could go on and on to describe the full array of feeling and sensations I experienced on this dive but it would take many more paragraphs… this was by far one of my richest sensory moments and I have used this image or mind movie many times as an anchor to elicit a happy feeling.

Now it’s your turn to recall those beautiful memories and anchor them.

If you want to share them with me please do !!

Take care my friends, until next week.

Smart Living To 100

Mallorca enters a new era!

Hi everyone, my name is Jane Gracia and I live in Mallorca. A very different Mallorca to the one I have known and loved for 22 years. From the 15th March to the 22nd May we were in a very strict lockdown, not even granted a daily “sanity” walk. Now, as we move freely around, I am so very grateful for all this beautiful island has to offer. For our economy, I am happy the restrictions are being lifted and we are welcoming visitors to Mallorca once more. However, I am also a little bit nervous, as I do not want to repeat the aforementioned lockdown. It was tough, very tough. I hope all that we have been through until now has made us wiser, more prudent. I hope visitors will respect the 2-metre rule and remember that mask-wearing in public is now mandatory.

Mallorca enters a new era
Enjoying this beautiful isalnd with my daughter.

So, as this wonderful island slowly wakes from the deepest of slumbers, I head off to the east coast with my daughter to appreciate it all. We head to Cala Figuera, a small fishing village, new to me. I realise I am not seeing it as it usually is, one or two small hotels have opened, several restaurants, but little else.

We check in to our aparthotel, the Marblau, (Room 107, clean, comfortable with a kitchenette and the best air con!!) perfectly adequate for our one night stay, and head off to explore. A lazy afternoon on the nearby Cala Santanyi, surprisingly busy despite the lack of tourists. We check out a colourful juice bar and scroll the menus of nearby restaurants for vegan options… the Cala Santanyi Hostal, by the way, did not disappoint in that department !! So, the plan was to head back to our room, quick turnaround, and walk back along the cliff path to enjoy the delights of the beachside restaurant. It was perfect, the little track took us close to the cliff edge, an unbroken view out across the Med, a single sailing boat.. normally at this time of year we would see many boats returning to port after a day out at sea, everything feels different this year, everything is different this year.

Cala Santanyi Mallorca
Cristal clear blue water in Cala Santanyi.

The following day we decide to explore Cala des Moro. This is a beautiful rocky inlet close to Cala Llombards. However, I feel it needs to be said that this is a perfect spot for an early morning snorkel, not for a full “beach day”. It fills up quickly, with locals I might add, so what would it be like in a “normal” summer!! One must park in the free car park and from there it is approximately a half-hour walk… It took us longer, as we brought a sunshade, (no sand to stick the pole into, so definitely not needed!!), quite a hefty cool bag (go for a snorkel and return, that way all you need is a bottle of water) and of course we had the snorkel gear, towels and suncream !!! Travel light, especially in the heat of late June. We were glad we went, as neither of us knew this delightful little bay, but I would not rush back.

I am enjoying our local beach, Puerto Pollensa. No sunbeds, no parasols, no facilities.. this year all is different. As I walk through town this morning, I see more restaurants are now open, the Hotel Daina has a team frantically working on it, day and night… I can only guess they must have plenty of bookings for the coming months. After many months of the back and forth of “will we/won’t we have tourists this year” it is encouraging to see.

We rely heavily on tourism, so thank you for coming to our amazing island. Enjoy your stay, eat in the restaurants, drink in the bars, have a fabulous holiday. But, please respect the rules, this summer is different, like no other we have had. The threat of Covid-19 remains a dark cloud on the horizon. Keep your distance, wear your mask, disinfect your hands. Thank you!

Stay safe! Enjoy your holidays in Mallorca.
Stay safe! Enjoy your holidays in Mallorca

Take care my friends, until next week.

Smart Living To 100.

Red Light Therapy; The new fountain of youth!

In my constant search for anti-ageing hacks, I frequently listen to the Ben Greenfield podcast. For me, he is a reference, a wealth of knowledge, and a constant source of inspiration for my research into the art of living to 100. In one of them, he talks about his daily use of the red light therapy device and all the benefits derived from this relatively new technology. It made sense to me and the idea of using the non-harmful wavelengths of the natural light did intrigue me. So I had to dig a little bit deeper and share it with you.

natural sun light
“Some people seemed to get all sunshine, and some all shadow…” ― Louisa May Alcott, Little Women

What is red light therapy?

Red light therapy ( RLT) is a safe and non-invasive way to deliver red low-level wavelengths of light to your skin and cells. A high-quality home device uses medical-grade LEDs to shine natural red and near-infrared light on your body, from the comfort of your home, without the heat and UV rays that can cause damage. Red light therapy is quick and easy: all you have to do is sit or stand in the light for 5 to 15 minutes, ideally every day. This gives the mitochondria in your cells the natural light they need to make the energy that powers your body.  Red light therapy has been shown to produce a wide range of natural health benefits, such as inflammation reduction and pain relief, fitness gains, muscle recovery, anti-ageing, improved sleep, weight loss, hair growth stimulation and many more.

How does red light therapy work?

All living things need to make ATP (adenosine triphosphate) cellular energy to function and survive, and nearly all living things rely on natural light to power this process in our cells every day. Red and near-infrared wavelengths of natural light stimulate the mitochondria in our cells. The mitochondria are responsible for taking light, oxygen, and the food we eat and turning it into usable energy for our bodies through the process of cellular respiration. By stimulating the mitochondria using RLT, a cell can make more ATP, and subsequently produce more energy. With more energy, cells can function more efficiently, rejuvenate themselves, and repair damage. The light emitted by RLT penetrates roughly 5 millimetres below the skin’s surface.

It’s not just any red light that delivers optimal health benefits, the best and safest biological response is obtained with two wavelengths of red light in the mid 600 nanometers and the near-infrared in the mid 800 nanometers, explains Michael Hamblin, M.D., an associate professor at Harvard Medical School. The former, 650 nanometers, is more quickly absorbed by the skin, making it ideal for a more skin deep treatments, while 850-nanometer wavelengths penetrate deeper into your body to help with muscle recovery, joint pain, and full-body health.

 Benefits of Red Light Therapy

  • Muscle repair, recovery and improved physical performance.

The increased ATP energy production from red light therapy helps your body function more efficiently, with more energy, and better circulation. Red light therapy is used pre or post-workout and is popular in professional sports and the training & fitness world because it’s been proven again and again to enhance physical performance, build muscle, and speed up recovery.

workout
Red light helps your muscle recovery after a heavy Crossfit workout..

A 2014 study found that the therapeutic technique led to reduced muscle strength loss, less muscle soreness, and fewer range-of-motion impairments for up to four days after exercise. A more recent 2018 study also proved that RLT both before and after exercise reduces knee muscle fatigue.

Natural light enhances activity within the lymph system, which has been shown to reduce swelling and inflammation and to have positive effects on arthritis and joint pain. R

Researchers in Brazil published a study in late 2018 and concluded that: “Results indicate that red light therapy could change the inflammatory course of arthritis, tending to accelerate its resolution through immune cells photobiostimulation.”

RLT also helps in wound healing and there’s no shortage of research to confirm it really does help you heal faster. A 2014 study found red light therapy promoted “increased tissue repair and healing… with added beneficial effects on wrinkles, acne scars, hypertrophic scars, and general skin ageing.

  • Pain relief

At the core of many of these benefits is RLT’s potential to reduce inflammation and pain. It can improve the range of motion of joints which is a common problem for those who are experiencing arthritis, carpal tunnel syndrome, and other forms of joint pains. It helps reduce pain for those who suffer fibromyalgia too.

Researchers have found that RLT exposure can also help reduce pain for osteoarthritis knee pain, meniscus tears, general knee pain, rheumatoid arthritis and back pain. The data on red light therapy for pain relief is so convincing the FDA has approved it as a therapy for treating minor pains and arthritis.

  • Anti Aging/ More collagen for the skin is crucial

Red Light Therapy is 100% natural, chemical-free and drug-free medium to combat signs of ageing. Unlike chemical solutions or toners that you apply on your skin, the natural red light used in the LED lamp penetrates the skin to activate cellular activity. Red light therapy has sometimes been labelled as “the next fountain of youth”. “Science shows that red light therapy protects existing collagen and boosts new production,” says Dr Lamb. “Plus it helps with texture, tone, pore size and wrinkles.”

Collagen is a long-chain amino acid and the most abundant protein in the body. It’s responsible for giving the skin its elasticity, hair its strength, and connective tissue its ability to hold everything in place. In fact, collagen protein makes up 30% of the total protein in the body, and 70% of the protein in the skin! While collagen is beneficial to the entire body, it’s most noticeably beneficial to skin rejuvenation.

With age, the outer layer of the skin ( epidermis)  becomes thinner and loses its elasticity and that’s when wrinkles and skin sagging starts appearing.

Red light therapy restores more healthy cellular function, stimulating the production of collagen.

The skin-clearing secret lies in RLT’s anti-inflammatory effects, and the reduction of naturally produced oil and bacterial levels in your skin.

Skin care
Skin care is enhanced with red light therapy

Because Red light therapy can help speed up the skin’s ability to heal, it can be used to address numerous problems including the following:

  • Acne reduction. Although Red Light is not used to kill acne-causing bacteria, it will help reduce the inflammation brought about by acne. Red and Infrared lights penetrate the skin at different levels and power up the cells to repair the skin from within. 
  • Bites. Because of the red light’s ability to speed up healing, bite wounds or punctures to the skin will be healed faster because of increased blood flow to the area.
  • Minor Burns. Red Light Therapy does not give off heat so it will not add to the damage that burns cause. However, it will increase the blood supply to the area so that our body’s natural defences and repair mechanism will be able to get to work faster.
  • Cuts, Scrapes and Wound Care. Increasing blood flow to the area will help speed up the body’s ability to repair itself naturally.
  • Dry Skin and Psoriasis. The Red Light penetrates the thickened skin and powers up the skin cells. Once more, because of the increased blood flow to the surface of the skin that is being treated, more nutrients and oxygen-rich blood are delivered to that area. This will stimulate rehydration to the treated area.
  • Scars and Stretch marks. Stretch marks are brought about by saggy skin either from weight loss or ageing. Collagen depletion from the body results in having loose, stretchy and saggy skin. Red light therapy helps stimulate collagen production thus preventing further development of stretch marks.
  • Sun Damage. Red light uses UV-free LED bulbs to safely and effectively deliver red light therapy. The red light wavelength spurs cellular activity to help reverse sun damage. It can lighten age spots.
  • Wrinkles. As we age our collagen production reduces and wrinkles start to creep up on our face (or neck). Red light therapy helps boost collagen and fibroblasts production to help correct these signs of ageing. 
  • Healthier sleep

Melatonin is a naturally occurring hormone your body produces to regulate the sleep/wake cycle. Melatonin is made by your body’s pineal gland.  When the sun goes down and it gets dark, the pineal is “turned on” and begins to actively produce melatonin, which is released into the blood. Usually, this occurs at around 9 pm. As a result, melatonin levels in the blood rise sharply and you begin to feel more and more sleepy.

Exposure to artificial light after dark inhibits the body’s ability to release melatonin, increasing the time it takes you to fall asleep. If you use a high-quality red light therapy device during the day, it’s been clinically shown to increase your natural melatonin output, which helps you get to sleep and stay asleep. 

Sleeping
Sleep what a wonderful gift…
  • Red light therapy helps lose weight

Although it sounds impossible to lose weight by just shining red lights on fatty areas of the body, it is backed by science. Red Light makes it easier for people to lose weight because it causes fat cells to dump their contents, therefore the body can easily discard it.

When red light is used on fat tissues, it causes the fats to break down. Fats are then converted to carbon dioxide which we remove from our body through urinating, defecating and exhaling. In other words, red light therapy helps the body wash away fat cells.

 A 2012 study in the International Journal of Endocrinology showed that light can affect hunger levels, which could help prevent the buildup of extra fat before it even begins and helps control levels of the hunger-related hormones leptin and ghrelin.

So the use of RLT and changes in your lifestyle could be a sustainable and long term strategy to maintain your ideal weight.

  • Red light therapy stimulates hair growth

The most common type of hair growth therapy is by laser lights.  Well, the right kind of red light wavelength is enough to stimulate hair follicles too. Wavelengths between 630-670 nanometers are most effective in being absorbed and cause a natural biological reaction to stimulate hair growth.

Success in regrowing hair also relies on how early the treatment is started. The earlier that it is done, the better the results. Now, if the hair follicle has actually died, it cannot absorb the visible red light.  

Red light hair loss therapies are recommended for individuals who have temporary hair loss due to issues such as medication side effects, stress, surgery, or other hair loss conditions, such as male pattern baldness or menopause.

It takes about 2 to 3 months to see significant results in red light therapy for hair regrow. Be patient and do not forget to do your treatments daily for best results. 

The Verdict

Red light therapy is proven to have many anti-ageing benefits, such as improving your skin tone and texture, reducing inflammation, and helping all the cells exposed to better function. There is no magic behind it, just pure science and research, it will not give you superhuman powers, nor will it completely rejuvenate you to your 20’s. I would still classify it as a very important bio-hack that will help your overall cellular activity, and increase your longevity with no harmful side effects. It definitely has my full attention and I think I will be investing in one of those devices very soon. Until then, I will enjoy the natural light that is totally free, and if taken in moderation is equally beneficial.

Take care my friends, until next week for more news on” The art of living to 100″.

Smart Living To 100.

DISCLAIMER; The material on this post is for informational purposes only. As each individual situation is unique, you should use proper discretion, in consultation with a health care practitioner, before undertaking the protocols, diet, exercises, techniques, training methods, or otherwise described herein. The author and publisher expressly disclaim responsibility for any adverse effects that may result from the use or application of the information contained herein.  No content on this site, regardless of date, should ever be used as a substitute for direct medical advice from your doctor or other qualified clinicians.

How to live longer! From a 105-year-old Japanese Doctor

Have you ever asked yourself this question… How long can I live for?

Well, this never crossed my mind, before I attended Granny Owens 100th birthday. Ever since then, I have been fascinated by the possibility of reaching that age in a happy, healthy and fulfilling way. It has become my passion and my daily commitment to practise the techniques I learn, to eat healthy food (or refrain from eating when I am fasting), to move as much as possible, and most importantly to keep acquiring new knowledge that relates to my longevity. In my research, I stumbled across an article from a Japanese doctor, Dr Shigeaki Hinohara, who practised medicine until a few months before passing at the age of 105. So I wanted to share the invaluable insight of a man who clearly practised what he preached and who gained much insight into his favourite question; what makes people live longer?

100 year birthday
Is living to 100 really possible?

His wisdom for longer life includes some fairly intuitive points and some not so obvious ones. 

Fun Is the Best Painkiller

Studies so far have shown that laughter can help relieve pain, bring greater happiness, and even increase immunity.

Hinohara didn’t want to subject other people to his complaints of aches and pains. Instead, he turned to the wisdom of children when it came to dealing with pain. They often forget their discomfort through the distraction of play, fun and laughter. In fact, one study suggests that healthy children may laugh as much as 400 times per day, but adults tend to laugh only 15 times per day. Laughter not only diverts your focus to the positive but also has physical benefits on your body. Here are a few:

  • Hormones: Laughter reduces the level of stress hormones like cortisol, epinephrine (adrenaline), dopamine, and also increases the level of health-enhancing hormones, like endorphins. Laughter increases the number of antibody-producing cells we have working for us and enhances the effectiveness of T cells. All this means a stronger immune system, as well as fewer physical effects of stress.
  • Emotional release:  Have you experienced that cleansed feeling after a good laugh? I have many times, and the feeling of happiness is so intense. I am sure you can also relate to that…
  • Physical workout: A good belly laugh exercises the diaphragm, contracts the abs and even works out the shoulders, leaving muscles more relaxed afterwards. 
  • Perspective: If you are equipped with a good sense of humour you are able to see the challenges that life throws your way in a different light. Humour can give us a more lighthearted perspective and help us to see the more positive side of those challenges. 
  • Social benefits:   Laughter is so contagious, it connects you with others even if they are complete strangers. So, if you bring more smiles and laughter into your life, you can most likely help others around you to laugh more. This will help them enjoy the benefits of laughter, reduce their stress levels and improve the quality of social interaction you experience with them.
heat-exposure-improves-longevity.jpeg
Laughter helps you to live longer and happier.

Don’t Place Too Much Importance on Material Possessions

Hinohara’s advice is to give less importance to all your material possessions and place your attention on experiences, especially the ones shared with other people. Often our best memories derive more from the feeling of happiness during those experiences than owning material goods.

With great sense of humour Hinohara says “ You never know when you’re going to kick the bucket and you can’t take any of your ‘stuff’ with you anyway”

Carry Your Own Shopping and Use the Stairs

Dr Hinohara stressed the importance of moderate everyday physical activity. Opting for little bits of activity like walking, using the stairs and carrying your own shopping will keep your muscles active (and therefore working), help create new brain cells (literally keeping you smart) and fight ageing. This regular exercise will also promote BDNF production in the brain; the main protein responsible for creating and developing new brain cells. In a relatively short amount of time, our lifestyle has changed from hunter-gatherer walking 10 miles a day, to sitting at a desk for 8 hours. Our bodies are not designed for such a sedentary life, and regular physical activity is one of the best ways we can stay healthy.

There is no need for any fancy equipment, or to spend hours on end in the pursuit of it.  Just 30 mins a day of physical activity can help you be healthy, feel more energetic, sleep better, make you sharper, be happier and make you live longer.

Start at whatever level you feel comfortable with, be consistent and keep gradually increasing the time or intensity of your physical activity.

Above all enjoy!!!  Endorphins are a powerful feel good by product !

Try Not to Overeat 

With supermarkets within walking distance of most homes, we’re not in danger of going hungry. In fact quite the opposite we are more in danger of eating too much. So it’s of the utmost importance to stick to small portions of low calorie, nutrient-dense foods such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains and lean meats, is the best way to avoid overeating without feeling hungry.

If you overeat unhealthy foods, such as high-fat fast foods or sugary desserts, you’ll get an initial rush of energy, but crash shortly after, leaving you feeling sluggish and fatigued. These unhealthy foods can also cause uncomfortable digestive problems such as bloating and gas. Overeating can also lead to bone and joint pain, because the excess weight can put additional pressure on your skeleton, which can lead to pain and discomfort, particularly in the lower back and hips.

healthy meal after fasting
Healthy meal after your fast

Chronic overeating can impact mental health. A large portion of your self-image and self-esteem is connected to how you feel about your looks and having a negative self-image could over time lead to depression, anxiety and intimacy-related difficulties.

Finally, overeating increases your risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes, certain types of cancer, gallbladder disease, high cholesterol and sleep apnea. 

On the other hand, shedding excess weight can boost self-image and improve overall mental health.

Hinohara’s message is a clear warning that carrying excess weight from overstuffing won’t do you any favours.

In my humble opinion, I would add some weekly or monthly fasting or intermittent fasting and acquire better control over your hunger pangs.

 Don’t Opt for Surgery

This point wasn’t an obvious one for me at first. I was brought up in the belief that doctors possessed the truth and knowledge about your health and well being, and that their opinion was not to be questioned. Although I have huge respect for the work that doctors do and for medicine, I now would rely on other alternatives like fasting, cold & heat therapy, breathwork, supplementation, meditation and exercise for my own good health. So I have regained control over my health, and that is such a wonderful feeling.

Despite being a doctor himself, Hinohara advised against always listening to your doctor and going under the knife without trying less intrusive methods first (like laughter or music therapy). He said many things can be cured without opting immediately for surgery, which is common wisdom in much eastern philosophy.

I don’t know about you but I totally agree with Dr Hinohara’s view.

Find your life purpose or Ikigai!

During your existence so far, how many times have you asked yourself the fundamental questions about why we are here on this planet…  such as, What is it all about?… , what is my mission in life ?…. what is my life plan… Was I born with a purpose or a divine path? etc…

Since my teenage years, I had these questions in my mind, I tried to ignore them at times, usually because I was not able to find the answers. These are, after all, pretty big questions!!

In Japan, they call it Ikigai, the Japanese secret to a long happy life. This word originates from the south Japanese islands of Okinawa.  Ikigai refers to an individual’s overarching motivator – something that injects joy into their days and can even add years to their life. In other words, it is what makes you get out of bed in the morning and gives purpose and meaning to your days and ultimately your life. This is one common tactic that characterizes the blue zones where people seriously increase their longevity and live to more than 100 years.

Dr Hinohara observed that when many people retire they slowly stop being busy. Their diaries suddenly go from being full to almost empty and they find themselves feeling lost and with no sense of purpose. The doctor had his schedule as full as he ever did when he was young, with hospital engagements, conferences and social events, even past the age of 100. Hinohara claimed that to stay active by planning your daily activities, your hobbies, your social calendar and your next travels is key to longevity. When a person stops planning they tend to stop living as fully. “If you must retire, do it well after 65″. People who work after retirement often remain more active and socially connected, which can mean living longer in better overall health, having more fulfilling lives and fewer medical issues. Working part-time can give you a sense of being part of something without being tied to a career and long hours.

turning 50
Turning 65 and embracing this new digital era…

In fact, a recent study by the University of Oregon found that working after age 65 may actually add more years to your life. They found that working just one year past 65 can lower your risk of death by 11%.

Retirement can be the start of a whole new career, a chance to learn new skills. You can begin a volunteering project that lets you give back to the community or start an online business around your passion or expertise.

There’s an important distinction though; to carry on working in a stressful or unfulfilling role will probably shorten your lifespan, not lengthen it. On the contrary, having a job, a role or hobbies you enjoy will keep your brain active, provide you with social contact will most probably make you live longer and maintain a sense of purpose. Purpose ties it all together. Purpose is a reason to keep going, especially when it involves responsibilities and other people. So my question to you is this… Have you found your Ikigai? What will make you live to 100?

Hinohara’s Conclusion!

Simply put, to live longer give yourself a reason to live!

I personally have nothing else to add, he is spot on, and all you have to do now is find your reason to live!

Take care my friends, until next week!

Smart living to 100.

DISCLAIMER; The material on this post is for informational purposes only. As each individual situation is unique, you should use proper discretion, in consultation with a health care practitioner, before undertaking the protocols, diet, exercises, techniques, training methods, or otherwise described herein. The author and publisher expressly disclaim responsibility for any adverse effects that may result from the use or application of the information contained herein.  No content on this site, regardless of date, should ever be used as a substitute for direct medical advice from your doctor or other qualified clinicians.

5 Breathing tips to better your health!

We have always been taught that in order to breathe efficiently we need to take a huge lung full of air and a massive exhale. This would support the common belief to get rid of as much carbon dioxide CO2 as possible. If you breathe through your mouth (now classed as over-breathing), you bypass many important stages in the breathing process. However, with slow, silent-like nasal breathing, you can oxygenate the body far more efficiently than with mouth breathing. The health benefits of nose breathing range from improving sleep, eliminating snoring and sleep apnea, to reducing inflammation, enhancing memory and an overall increase in your immune system function. As newborn babies, we all use nasal breathing almost exclusively.  So I wonder why only 30 % of adults are still nose breathers. This is time to retrain these forgotten skills. These next 5 tips will retrain them, improve your health, dampen your stress levels and make a massive difference to your sleep quality. 

Breathing Deep
Learn to engage in…slow, deep, whisper-like nasal breathing.

So let’s start now, close your mouth, breathe through your nose as you read these next paragraphs.

These following tips are based on the Buteyko Breathing Concept,

 Tip 1 – Buteyko Breathing:

 According to its creator, a Russian physician, when you stop breathing from your mouth and instead engage in slow, deep, almost silent nasal breathing, you oxygenate your tissues and organs far more efficiently. This breathing keeps you from excessive oxygen ( O2) consumption and also excessive carbon dioxide (CO2) exhalation. When you breathe in through your nose, the air is warmed, moistened, conditioned and mixed with nitric oxide (NO). This NO neutralises germs, bacteria and works as a vasodilator on your airways, arteries and capillaries. 

I know you are probably thinking this is counter-intuitive, I did too at the beginning. I was always told that efficient breathing was lungs full of air and a big exhale. After listening to Patrick Mckeown, author of the book “ The Oxygen Advantage “, I realised I was over-breathing. But after more research and more practice of the Buteyko Breathing, I realised what a powerful yet gentle tool this technique is.

We were intended to breathe through our nose.
Reconnect with nasal breathing…

How to do the Buteyko Breathing? 

The control-pause technique (CP):

  • Rest for ten minutes prior to this technique. 
  • Next start gently breathing through your nose. 
  • Then after a normal exhale, squeeze the tip of your nose, and time yourself.
  • When you are feeling the slightest need to take a breath, inhale, and check the time.
  • If you were able to hold for more than 10 seconds, for example, your CP is 10. A good CP is 30 seconds and Buteyko claimed that with a CP of sixty seconds, “ he/she is insured against illness”. Mine is at 35 seconds now so although it’s not bad there is room for improvement. Hence why I consciously nasal breath throughout the day, and when I do some exercise, I maintain it as much as possible. My goal is to be able to engage in any type of moderate to high-intensity workout whilst nasal breathing.
  • Mouth Taping: Just tape your mouth before going to sleep so you oblige your body to learn nasal breathing. Test it first during the day by putting some tape on your mouth and start nasal breathing. No air should be able to go through your mouth. Once tested, you can simply fall asleep confident that all through the night you will continue nasal breathing. There is a tape called Somnifix that uses a hypoallergenic adhesive with fewer chemicals. Some people apply a thin layer of olive oil on their lips so the tape removal process is easy and less painful.

Tip 2- Nostril breathing:

  • If you want to activate the left side of the body for example, just breathe in through the right nostril (keeping in mind that the right side of the brain is associated with the left side of the body and vice versa). So, in a practical sense, if you need to engage in a creative/ artistic task (right brain), you will need to breathe for 1 to 2 minutes from your left nostril only. The opposite would be if you have a more logical, analytical or mathematical task to achieve (left brain) you will prepare for it by breathing for 1 to 2 minutes with your right nostril.
  • Another application of this breathing would be prior to going to sleep, breathe through your left nostril for a few minutes. This is an effective way of activating the parasympathetic nervous system and further deepening your relaxation.
  • Alternate nostril breathing is also used in Kundalini Yoga as a potent stress-reducing tactic.
  •  Press your thumb on the left nostril and gently breath out through the right nostril. 

      –     Then gently breathe in through the right nostril, press the right nostril with a different finger.

      –      Remove the thumb from your left nostril and exhale.

      –      Finally, breathe in through the left nostril, press the thumb on it again and repeat.

Nasal breathing for a quick and easy relaxation.
A few minutes of nasal breathing…and you are totally chilled.

Tip 3- Box Breathing:

This technique is part of the Navy Seal training, it helps to stay calm and focused even in the most stressful of situations. This technique is easy and effective; close your mouth and slowly inhale for 4 seconds, hold your breath for 4 seconds, exhale through your mouth for 4 seconds, then hold for 4 seconds and repeat. This will quickly put you back in a state of calm and control.

Tip 4 – Belly Breathing:

I learnt this tip from Paul Chek, he calls it inverted breathing. Simply tie a string around your waist and focus on consciously expanding it, in and out,with abdominal breaths. When used properly,  this will make you more aware of your belly breathing, and seriously decrease your levels of stress. Taking 3 deep abdominal breaths when you sit down prior to a meal will centre your body and improve your nutrient intake.

This is particularly important as most of us use shallow chest breathing, which activates pressure receptors in our chest, and stimulates the stress hormone cortisol by raising your heart rate and blood pressure.

Tip 5 – Breath hold walks;

Walking in nature is one of my favourite basic longevity hacks to do after work or during my weekends. Living in Mallorca I can walk along the seafront or in the countryside, or engage in more challenging hills walks. Now I have added a breath-holding activity to my walks. On the seafront for example, when I pass a lamp post, I  take a deep belly breath and hold it for as long as possible. When I feel the need to breathe I exhale slowly and then inhale through my nose. At the next lamp post, I repeat the same procedure. After a few months of playing with this exercise, I can almost hold my breath for a distance of the space between 2 lamp posts. With a bit of practice, you can almost get into a slight meditative state.

Nasal breathing improve sleep
Nasal breathing will improve your sleep quality!

What’s my take on this :

Breathing is one of my number one longevity hacks. So for me, the Buteyko Breathing has become as important as my daily Wim Hof practice. After a few months of nasal breathing, it has become more natural to me. I can go about my daily activities without taking air through my mouth.  However, It will take longer to achieve the same level of ease whilst engaging in moderate to high-intensity physical activities. I have experienced massive improvements in my freediving capacity, a general sense of calm and more mental focus throughout the day. Most importantly I have reconnected with the way nature intended me to breathe.

In conclusion, nasal breathing is one of my non-negotiable skills to master, to optimize my health and propel me along my journey to 100.

I hope this helps you too, and somehow ignites your interest and practise of the Buteyko Breathing… 

Take care my friends, until next week.

Smart Living To 100.

DISCLAIMER; The material on this post is for informational purposes only. As each individual situation is unique, you should use proper discretion, in consultation with a health care practitioner, before undertaking the protocols, diet, exercises, techniques, training methods, or otherwise described herein. The author and publisher expressly disclaim responsibility for any adverse effects that may result from the use or application of the information contained herein.  No content on this site, regardless of date, should ever be used as a substitute for direct medical advice from your doctor or other qualified clinicians.

Wim Hof guided breathing! Just try it!!

This week I wanted to share with you this powerful guided Wim Hof guided breathing. This is one of my so-called “non-negotiables” that I include every single day in my routine. I call it non-negotiable as I consider this practice to be a pillar in my quest for reaching 100 in a happy, healthy, and fulfilling way. It is easy to use, and in less than 12 mins allows you to recharge with tons of O2, makes your entire body more alkaline and propels your mind ” into Outerspace” to quote Wim Hof himself.

This is the very same youtube video I use when I want to practice the Wim Hof breathing as well as slipping into a meditative state. You don’t have to worry about timing yourself, just follow the instructions given by Wim Hof and immerse yourself in the breathing sensations. Whether you are a beginner or more advanced in this breathing practice, this amazing tools allows you to progress at your own rhythm by pausing the video whenever you want.

Before practising the breathing exercises please watch this Safety Video first – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IFSL_…

I hope you enjoy it and are able to include it in your routine. If you want to know more about the Wim Hof Method check the following posts that I have on my website.

Amazing benefits of the Wim Hof method after 2 years of practice!

Myth or reality? Does the Wim Hof method work?

Boost your immune system with the Wim Hof method.

If you find value in my posts, please leave your comments and share them with friends and loved ones . Take care my friends.

Smart living to 100.

DISCLAIMER; The material on this post is for informational purposes only. As each individual situation is unique, you should use proper discretion, in consultation with a health care practitioner, before undertaking the protocols, diet, exercises, techniques, training methods, or otherwise described herein. The author and publisher expressly disclaim responsibility for any adverse effects that may result from the use or application of the information contained herein.  No content on this site, regardless of date, should ever be used as a substitute for direct medical advice from your doctor or other qualified clinicians.

What is Blood Flow Restriction Training?

By now all my readers know that I am hell-bent on living to 100, in a happy, healthy and fulfilling way. Needless to say that during this natural ageing process the body is going to undergo some changes. One of them is muscle wastage, also called Sarcopenia. The older you get, the more important your muscle mass becomes. Not only are strong muscles a requirement for mobility, balance and the ability to live independently, but in the long run, having a muscle mass reserve will also increase your chances of survival during illness and hospitalization.

BFR band while swimming
My next challenge is to use the BFR bands while swimming…

Six months ago I came across a Blood Flow Restriction (BFR) training article from Ben Greenfield. I subsequently did more digging and became fascinated by the subject. Multiple studies have shown that BFR training, done properly, can not only maintain but also increase your muscle mass and strength with very little or no risk of injury. 

Warning; It is advisable to check with your doctor before embarking in this type of training.

How does BFR work

I will start by sharing the history of BFR. It was developed by the pioneering professor Yoshiaki Sato of Japan over 50 years ago. In Japan, where it is widely practised, the technique is called KAATSU, meaning “additional pressure” and was generically defined as BFM (blood flow moderation) by Dr Sato. It involves the application of additional pressure via a cuff proximally to the upper or lower limb, with the aim of obtaining partial arterial pressure and complete venous occlusion.  This, in turn, creates a relatively hypoxic environment or low oxygen pressure in the exercising muscle. With very light weights, and in about 15-20 minutes, you get an exhaustive workout that sends a signal to your brain that you have been lifting heavier than you actually did. This activates a wide variety of powerful hormonal responses that cause your muscles and blood vessels to grow. Studies show that after only 12 weeks, you can expect a 40% increase in muscle strength, depending on your load and health.

Choose a weight that is light enough to enable you to do 30 repetitions without rest. Then a short rest interval of 15 to 20 seconds and repeat 2 more times… Simple and effective !! As part of a long term strategy, BFR training 2 to 3 times a week is sufficient.

BFR training at home
During Lockdown it was so handy to train from home with the BFR bands.

I engage in BFR training 3 times a week, for 15 mins, 3 sets of 30 reps for the arms, and then swap the bands to my legs and do the same for 20 mins. On both, I rest no longer than 15 secs between sets. During the 15 mins for the upper limbs I can hit various muscle groups biceps, triceps, shoulders, dorsal, etc, and then switch the bands to my lower limbs for 20 mins and work on the glutes, hamstrings, quads, and calves. This is a very effective way to train and in less than 40 mins I have given my body a complete workout.

BFR can be applied during aerobic exercise, such as during walking, swimming or cycling.

How BFR increases muscle strength and size

In order to increase muscle mass and strength, it is important to activate fast-twitch Type II muscle fibres during training, since these fibres have been shown to be more responsive to increasing muscle size than Type I fibres. This type II muscle fibre activation can be achieved with high-intensity training such as sprints and heavyweight training. Training with low weights and no resistance bands will not create a hypoxic environment and therefore not activate type II fibres.

On the other hand, when using BFR bands, the type I fibres become hypoxic very quickly, exhausting themselves, kick-starting the activation of type II fibre and generating high levels of lactates. BFR is the type of training that will not only add solid muscle mass to your frame but also significantly increase your strength and endurance whilst reducing your body fat.

With age, there is a loss of microcirculation. The magic lies in the fact that BFR increases your microcirculation, involving your capillaries, venules and arterioles because your muscles are working in a hypoxic (low oxygen) environment. This low oxygen tension causes the release of hypoxia-inducible factor-1 alpha (HIF-1 alpha), that then increases the hormone vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF). Essentially VEGF acts as “fertilizer” for growing new blood vessels and capillaries to your muscle stem cells.

So for an ageing population, BFR training goes beyond what conventional strength training with heavyweights can do. It increases microcirculation and reduces your risk of injury.

But it gets even better as VEGF not only increases microcirculation in your muscle stem cells but also in your brain and heart. 

BFR and lactate production.

BFR also downregulates a hormone called myostatin, which is an inhibitor of muscle growth and mass. This is particularly important as you age because myostatin levels can double those of a young person and it becomes significantly more difficult to increase muscle size and strength.  Amazingly, BFR can decrease your myostatin levels by 50% which has been shown to increase muscle protein synthesis. When you apply the bands and engorge the working muscle, the Type I muscle fibres get quickly fatigued with the lack of oxygen and rapidly switch to Type II fibres. Glycolysis, where lactate is produced, is the pathway that allows the Type II fibres to run on burning glucose without oxygen. In the past, lactate was traditionally viewed as a metabolic waste product, but today it is understood that lactate is an important and beneficial molecule. Once you release the bands, the lactate travels from your muscles and is released into your bloodstream to make its way to your brain, where it is used for fuel. Once the lactate reaches your brain it increases a powerful hormone called brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF). BDNF is a member of brain growth factors that contribute to neuroplasticity, which greatly enhances cognitive performance.

BFR elastic bands
These BFR training bands are very economical and so easy use.

How to use the BFR bands

I have so far only used the elasticated band (5 cm wide) that you apply manually so my knowledge with KAATSU or other inflatable cuffs is only theoretical.

Remember, whatever bands you use, KAATSU or less expensive BFR bands, the pressure that the cuff is inflated or tightened to should not be painful or cause any numbness or tingling. They are not supposed to shut down your arterial supply. If it is too tight you need to lower the pressure or loosen the bands.

  • When manually applying the bands, tighten them so your skin colour becomes more pink or red compared to your normal skin tone.
  • They should not feel uncomfortable and your skin colour must not become whiter or have a bluish or greyish tone; this means that arterial flow is being restricted
  • A simple way to determine good “base pressure” is to have the bands tight enough that you cannot fit two fingers under the band, but loose enough that you CAN squeeze one finger under the band. 
  • Recent studies suggest that the ideal range is about 60% of AOP (Arterial Oxygen Pressure) and below 40% would not qualify as BFR training as it would not occlude your veins.
  • If the bands are too tight you can actually cause damage to your muscle.  When checking proper band pressure on your arm, it is most easily determined by pressing your index finger firmly into the palm of the opposite hand (on the arm that is under restriction) into the area just under your thumb, then quickly releasing and seeing how long the white area takes to turn pink. If it takes longer than three seconds, the bands are too tight.  Release the pressure and try again.
  • You must not conduct simultaneous BFR on both your arms and legs, as this could decrease your blood pressure.
  • Start using weights that are no more than 20% of your 1 Rep max.
  • With this weight, you should be able to do 30 reps x 3, with no more than 15 seconds rest between sets.
  • Just remember to remove the bands after 15 minutes on your arms and 20 minutes on your legs. 
  • Sweating profusely and a noticeable increase in heart and breathing rate is normal.
BFR training with kettelbells
BFR training with kettlebells

I am hooked on BFR training.

BFR training has been a godsend during the 2 and half months hard lockdown we had here in Spain. I was wearing the bands going up and down my staircase, running round and round in circles on the very small terrace rooftop, and exercising all my muscle groups with limited weights and space. I have seen noticeable improvements in muscle size, especially my biceps. My grip strength has also increased and according to recent studies, longevity and grip strength are closely related. Now on phase 2 of the lockdown, we are allowed to go and exercise outdoors, so I shall try the bands during my swimming sessions ( as per Dr Mercola recommendation)

It has tremendously helped my recovery from an old shoulder injury as well as a more recent one on my biceps.

I am 54 and this is one hack I want to carry on using to maintain my muscle size/strength for many years to come, at least until my 100th birthday.

My wife has bought a set as well and she wears them for her daily power walk.

To learn more check the following links

Dr Mercola’s pdf here.

Medical publication here.

More on grip strength study.

Brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF)

DISCLAIMER; The material on this post is for informational purposes only. As each individual situation is unique, you should use proper discretion, in consultation with a health care practitioner, before undertaking the protocols, diet, exercises, techniques, training methods, or otherwise described herein. The author and publisher expressly disclaim responsibility for any adverse effects that may result from the use or application of the information contained herein.  No content on this site, regardless of date, should ever be used as a substitute for direct medical advice from your doctor or other qualified clinicians.

Mallorca Lockdown phase 2! A return to snorkelling!

As Mallorca enters phase 2 of this COVID 19 lockdown, life is slowly returning to a new normality.  We can move freely around the island, we can go into shops and restaurants and we can sit at a bar terrace to sip a cold drink, being mindful of social distancing of course!

For me, the most exciting thing is being able to go to the beach again and to swim in the beautiful Mediterranean sea… 

I headed to Cala San Vicente, close to Pollensa in the north of Mallorca. This small beach was almost empty, no sunbeds yet, no parasols, some seaweed clumped at the water’s edge, piles of driftwood stacked against the rocks, almost as if I had stepped back in time.

This is my favourite beach, as it has easy access to some of the most amazing snorkelling ground, ranging from white undulating sand to rocks and seaweed, to sheer

drops along the mountain’s edge. The water is spectacularly clear with a visibility in excess of 30 metres, and although a bit cold, without hesitation I was straight in.

Here, in my liquid element, I feel at peace, in awe of such enchanting surroundings. This is what I had been missing, my connection with the sea.  Although floating, I am grounded.  Although swimming, I am still. 

snorkelling-mallorca-2020
It’s great to be snorkelling again…roll on summer 2020.

Marine life seems to have moved closer to shore during this lockdown period.  I am surrounded by hundreds of small barracudas, tiny silver arrows darting through the water. Sea bream and Saupe fish almost close enough to touch.  An elegant stingray, an octopus curled in his rocky lair and an angry-looking moray eel retreating to her hiding place under the rocks. I carry on snorkelling alongside the cliff face dodging a few jellyfish that carelessly stray into my path… I am happy….

As I lie on the beach, letting the sun warm my body, I am profoundly thankful. If these past 2 and half months of confinement have taught me one thing, it is not to take for granted all the wonderful and simple pleasures that Mallorca has in abundance. I am already planning my next visit to Cala Varques, calas de Mallorca, from Alcudia head towards coll baix , and much more.

I hope we can swiftly move through the last phase in order to get back to a new normality. Then tourists from all over Europe will return to our shores, enjoy its beauty and spend their precious 2020 holidays in Mallorca.

Until then take care, my friends, and feel free to leave any comment and get in touch.

Smart Living to 100.