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A 5-second aging test

MAR 15, 2023

Minute 1: How well can you perform this fitness test

If we had a dollar for every time our grammar school teachers told us to “wipe that smirk off your face and sit up straight,” we would be much wealthier than your average newsletter publisher. It turns out that the part about sitting up straight was better life advice than the part about being straight-faced, according to this exam we never took in school: “A Five-Second Test to See Whether You’re Aging Well.” It’s known as the “sit-to-stand test,” and it’s a way to measure strength, balance, and flexibility in a remarkably short amount of time. It requires no equipment and can be an accurate indicator of long-term health. Begin in a standing position and then lower yourself into a cross-legged seated position. Next, without using your hands, knees, or forearms, stand back up. If you can do that with only your feet and butt touching the ground, you’ve passed with flying colors. If it doesn’t go so well, it likely indicates that your core needs some work. Another variation of this test involves how many times you can lower yourself into a chair and rise again within 30 seconds. If you think your core needs work, check out these: “7 mobility exercises to strengthen your joints and increase your range of motion.” Mobility work can strengthen your joints and connective tissue, which is important for runners looking to reduce their risk of injury. There’s the frog squat, which can be done with just your body weight if you want to focus on your flexibility. Add a dumbbell or kettlebell into the mix if you want to improve your strength, as demonstrated in this “Frog Squat Video Exercise Guide.”

Minute 2: All you can eat nutrition tips

March is National Nutrition Month. Who knew? We thought it was all about college basketball and “coming in like a lion and going out like a lamb.” National Nutrition Month seems like as good an excuse as any to eat healthier, and right on cue here is a new story from VeryWellFit: “The 18 Best Nutrition Tips, According to Dietitians.” When asked what nutrition trend excites these professionals the most, “the overwhelming response to this question centered around gut health, particularly probiotics and kimchi. Many of the dietitians reported loving the nutritional benefits of these foods, but also the fact that they celebrate different cultures.” Another popular piece of advice was to “taste the rainbow.” According to dietician Eliza Savage, that means we should eat fruits and veggies with a variety of different colors, since they often indicate what phytonutrients the foods contain. For more on that, check out: “Phytonutrients: Paint your plate with the colors of the rainbow.” Diets rich in phytonutrients are associated with lower risk of cardiovascular disease and certain types of cancers. For those looking to have an easier time controlling your appetite, foods high in protein and fiber are the way to go. Here are “15 Foods That Are Incredibly Filling.” Protein is the most satiating of the 3 macronutrients, as it signals hormones associated with the feeling of fullness when consumed. Fiber is slow to digest, causing your stomach to feel full for longer.

Minute 3: Deep sleep can improve mental health

It may feel like you’re going completely lights out when you sleep, but many researchers say that’s not the case. Sleep is a remarkably active time for the brain, even if you aren’t conscious of what’s going on, and that means losing sleep will cause you to miss out on important neurological activity. That’s bad news if you’re worried about the risk of neurological disorders, so take a look at: “The battle to boost our deep sleep – and help stop dementia.” During sleep, your brain is busy flushing out toxic byproducts like beta-amyloid. Otherwise, they’ll accumulate and increase risk of dementia and other brain diseases. By getting regular, deep sleep, you give your brain’s detox filters time to work, and that’s vital for your brain health in both the short and long term. Not only can lack of sleep lead to chronic diseases, but it can bring several immediate downsides too. Check out this list of the “Effects of Lack of Sleep on Mental Health.” You can expect brain fog, mood changes, and increased stress levels after as little as one night of poor sleep. If you want to avoid any and all of these downsides, you should consider these: “5 Ways to Get More REM Sleep.” Rapid Eye Movement sleep is a stage where you’re often dreaming, and researchers believe it’s the phase where memory consolidation and emotional processing occur. By keeping your sleep schedule consistent, avoiding alcohol, tobacco, and caffeine around bedtime, and minimizing potentially disruptive sleep medication, you can increase the quality of your REM sleep.

Minute 4: Lower your risk of injury with aqua and beach jogging

Where you run can have just as much of an impact as how far you run. In general, a lower-impact surface will reduce your injury risk. Unfortunately, running on pavement and other hard surfaces has one of the highest impact levels of any kind of cardio. At the other end of the spectrum, logging your miles in the water is very low impact: “Aqua Jogging For Runners – The Benefits, Technique & More.” Aqua jogging is simply running in a pool, allowing the body’s natural buoyancy to reduce your impact while exercising many of the same muscles as you would on a typical run. Not to mention, the increased resistance improves the potential for strengthening your muscles. Don’t have access to a pool? The next best thing might be running on sand. You may feel calm and relaxed as you get to the seaside, but make no mistake, beach running can be a serious challenge for any runner. Take a look at “Why is it so hard to walk on sand?” As the sand sinks and deforms beneath each step, it causes your foot muscles to work in unusual ways, requiring more than twice the amount of energy per step compared to a firm, flat surface. That number is reduced to about 1.6X when running, but it’s still a nice boost in difficulty. Like aqua jogging, the reduced impact forces of sand can help reduce the risk for overuse injuries. Like any other change in training technique, you should ease into beach running slowly. For more on the pros and cons, check out: “Everything You Need to Know About Running in the Sand.” As a general rule, most coaches will advise you to run barefoot in softer sand and wear shoes on hard-packed sand at the water’s edge.

Minute 5: Quick Intervals

  • It can take months to train for a marathon, but If you make some poor nutrition decisions on race day, you can screw up lots of hard work. Whether you go for liquid fuel, semi-solid, or solid food will depend on your personal wants and needs, and to help figure out what will work best, check out this advice from Training Peaks: “A Guide to Race Day Nutrition.” For a few specific options worth considering, try these “Chews, Goos, and Gels: Exactly What To Pack for Proper Fueling on Race Day.”

  • Exercise, meditation, and journaling are common ways of dealing with anxiety, but did you know your diet can have an impact as well? Foods that are high in tryptophan, serotonin, antioxidants, and magnesium can all have a positive affect on your mood and anxiety levels, which is why this smoothie could be your go-to chill out drink: “I'm A Nutritional Psychiatrist: This Is My 6-Ingredient Anxiety-Busting Smoothie.”

  • Last issue, we covered the best foam rollers and mentioned a few options for vibration guns. To take a little deeper dive, check out this new piece from Marathon Handbook: “Do Massage Guns Work? 5 Proven Benefits Of Massage Guns.”

Minute 6: Daily Inspiration

Whoever is running the National Park Service Twitter and Instagram accounts, pay them double! Lately, they’ve changed up their dry, informative tone for a more casual approach. We’re not sure if this was all part of the plan or an intern gone rogue, but regardless, we’re enjoying the show. So is @worldshaker on Instagram, who reads out a few of their best tweets in the clip below. If you want advice on surviving ferrets, bears, misleading maps, and more, we can’t promise that this is the best advice, but it is the funniest, and that’s good enough for us.


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