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The Healthiest You: Take Charge of Your Brain to Take Charge of Your Life
     

The Healthiest You: Take Charge of Your Brain to Take Charge of Your Life

2.0 5
by Kelly Traver, Betty Kelly Sargent
 

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Why is The Healthiest You different from every other health, diet, and fitness plan? Because it works.

Dr. Kelly Traver understands that the human brain resists change. Only when we learn the secrets of how to get our brain to work for us, not against us, can we make healthy, permanent lifestyle changes. By combining recent cutting-edge discoveries in

Overview

Why is The Healthiest You different from every other health, diet, and fitness plan? Because it works.

Dr. Kelly Traver understands that the human brain resists change. Only when we learn the secrets of how to get our brain to work for us, not against us, can we make healthy, permanent lifestyle changes. By combining recent cutting-edge discoveries in neuroscience with the latest information in medicine, nutrition, and fitness, Dr. Traver developed the Healthiest You program and initially tested it on her patients, ranging in age from twenty to eighty-one. Her results were astounding:

• Among those who were overweight, the average weight loss was 19 pounds.

• Among those who were diabetic, 80 percent achieved a reduction in their blood sugar.

• Among those with high blood pressure, 87 percent returned their blood pressure to normal.

• Some 80 percent of the smokers successfully kicked the habit.

In the course of 12 short weeks, readers can achieve similar success by following Dr. Traver’s simple, straightforward instructions to work with this stubbornly change-resistant organ so that it not only accepts new, healthy lifestyle habits, it actually embraces them. You can use this empowering information to remotivate yourself whenever your enthusiasm starts to wane. With the powerful tools provided by The Healthiest You, you can learn to change your body and your life, simply by understanding and working with your brain.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Dr. Traver doesn't just instruct readers on how to achieve happier, healthier lives, she provides compelling evidence for why her methods work." — Dr. Mark Hyman, bestselling author of The UltraMind Solution and UltraMetabolism

"I've seen our employees lose 40+ pounds, get off their blood pressure and diabetes medications, figure out their sleep problems, reduce stress, and more. The Program really works!" — Dagan McLennan, RN, Wellness Center, Google

"Dr. Traver's The Program is opening the next frontier of medicine with its smart, simple, and science-based approach to protecting your health." — Bradley A. Perkins, M.D., executive vice president for strategy and innovation at Vanguard Health Systems

"This is a tipping point book: it shows us how to get beyond sick care to doable healthy living." — Bob Johansen, bestselling author of Get There Early and Leaders Make the Future

"This no-nonsense, evidence-based approach can transform lives by teaching people how to do what they know they should, but is so increasingly difficult to practice in the modern world." — J. Nick Baird, M.D., CEO, Alliance to Make US Healthiest

"Wow! What an undertaking! The Program provides just the right mix of what, why, and how for readers interested in improving their health and well-being." — Cathy Heaney, Ph.D., Stanford Prevention and Research Center

"Simply wonderful. Reading The Program somehow reminded me of reading Shakespeare. Each page is so laden with verities that a slow read is mandated. So, read slow and thrive." — Walter M. Bortz II, M.D., bestselling author of Dare to Be 100 and We Live Too Short and Die Too Long

Library Journal
Traver (global medical director, Google, Worldwide) created "The Program," a 12-week course (used by Google and Stanford University) dedicated to changing the way people think in order to change the way people live. Now, Traver and journalist Sargent have expanded The Program into a self-guided book for public use. For readers who have tried Judith S. Beck's The Beck Diet Solution, The Program may feel similar. As in the Beck Diet Solution, readers are encouraged to be conscious of their behaviors. Once the detrimental behaviors are eliminated and healthy behaviors are learned, they should begin to feel healthy and happy. Unlike the Beck system, The Program is not solely a weight-loss plan; it is a healthy-lifestyle guide. Also, readers should note that Traver is not necessarily promoting cognitive behavioral therapy as Beck does. The Program comes more from a medical view than from a psychological one. VERDICT The Program is an excellent choice for readers interested in lifelong healthy living. Highly recommended.—Rachel M. Minkin, Lansing Community Coll., MI

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781439109991
Publisher:
Atria Books
Publication date:
12/20/2011
Pages:
416
Product dimensions:
7.02(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.93(d)

Related Subjects

Read an Excerpt

The Healthiest You
WEEK 1 | GETTING STARTED

Tell me and I forget, show me and I remember, involve me and I understand.

—ANONYMOUS

WELCOME TO THE PROGRAM! The purpose of this program is to empower you with all of the information and tools you need to live a healthy, happy life. As I said in the introduction, 50 percent of the health problems seen in the United States are due to an unhealthy lifestyle, so learning these tools is important.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IHh2Oqtq128

Welcome

You don’t need to go to medical school to understand how the human body works, nor do you need a Ph.D. in neuroscience to take advantage of all of the information available today about the brain. You do, however, need to know how to put this information to use, and that is what this book is all about. While The Program delivers all of the latest research, it is designed to deliver the information in a practical way so that you can easily apply it to your everyday life. The Program has worked for thousands of people over the last few years, and with a little effort and commitment on your part, I know it can work for you too.

There are a couple of reasons I’m so confident that The Program will help you. First, all of the information I’m going to give you is based on recent, cutting-edge studies, not only in neuroscience but in the fields of medicine, nutrition, and fitness as well. Although this book is packed with information, if you just remember the major points over the next twelve weeks, you’ll have learned everything you need to know. Second, because I’ve incorporated new knowledge about the brain from the latest research in neuroscience, The Program really works. Why? Because, as I’ve mentioned, when it comes to making permanent, positive lifestyle changes, your brain can be uncooperative at first. It will resist you, at least in the beginning. It feels comfortable and safe as long as you keep doing everything the way you always have. Tell your brain you want to make a change—say, give up smoking—and it gets nervous, starts to stress, and says, “Not so fast, pal.” There are, however, effective ways of coaxing your brain into becoming a better partner, and I’ve built these methods, or brain tips, right into The Program. Whether your health goal is to lose weight or get fit, reduce stress or boost your mood and energy level, you can use this method to achieve it.

It’s not always going to be easy. In fact, I think it can be quite challenging to stay healthy in today’s world. It’s hard to fit exercise into a life already packed with work, family, and so many other obligations. It’s challenging to stay at your ideal weight when there is so much tempting, often unhealthy food everywhere you turn. It’s also hard to get enough sleep and manage stress in this fast-paced world. There is so much conflicting information around today, it can even be hard to know what to believe when it comes to healthful living.

As if this weren’t enough, our genes and instincts that helped us back when we were tramping around on the savanna sometimes work against us now. Our behavioral instincts have evolved over millions of years and under many conditions that are no longer present today. The world has changed dramatically in a very short period of time, but our brains have not. Did you know that it is estimated that early people had to walk from five to twenty miles every day just to find food? Yet most of us feel annoyed if we have to park more than a few blocks away from our destination. Your body needs to move to stay healthy, but your brain has evolved to make you want to conserve energy whenever you can. This made sense millions of years ago, so that you wouldn’t foolishly burn calories if you didn’t have to; back then, you didn’t know when you’d find your next meal. So your brain has evolved to say, “Why walk more than I have to?” Think about this the next time you find yourself desperately searching for the parking spot closest to the grocery store entrance. You are listening to old, outdated brain instincts.

Your brain also wants you to eat food whenever it sees it. That, too, made sense long ago when food was scarce, but most of us aren’t in danger of starving anymore. In fact, this instinct has become a big problem in places where the food supply exceeds the actual needs of the population. In the United States, for example, we produce twice as much food each year as we actually need. It is clear that living in a healthful way won’t always come naturally since we are wired for a different evolutionary period, but it really is necessary if we want to have a long and healthy life.

One of my major goals in The Program is to show you how all the areas of your health are interconnected. That is, you won’t be really successful in addressing one health goal without understanding how all the pieces fit together in the big picture of your overall health. Once you understand what is happening with your body and why it matters, you’ll be much more successful in meeting your health goals. Also, feel free to talk about The Program with your doctor, especially if you learn about a health issue that you feel pertains particularly to you.

Just as important as learning this information is figuring out how to put it into action in a way that is sustainable. I want you to be able to be healthy for the rest of your life, not just for the twelve weeks you are on The Program. To do this, you need to learn how to adapt the basic principles of health to your own unique lifestyle. You will be given suggestions about what to work on each week, but remember that how you end up working these principles into your life is up to you. Be creative. Make them fit. They have to work only for you. I’m also going to show you how to tailor The Program to your personal goals by teaching you how to be your own best coach. Understanding how to coach yourself is essential if you want to sustain your new, healthful lifestyle. You’ll learn exactly how to do this.

Here’s how The Program is structured. Each week you’ll be given three topics: health, nutrition, and fitness. At the end of every week, I will list the key points from that week’s material, and I’ll feature one brain tip. I will also give you a few specific action tasks that pertain to that week’s material. It will look like this:

Learn It! This will be a brief summary of the key points in health, nutrition, and fitness from that week.

Personalize It! You will be given one brain tip to focus on, plus a few examples of how past participants in The Program have personalized this brain tip and put it to work in their lives.

Live It! This section will be your “to do” list for the week—a few practical, concrete steps you can take to move forward toward a more healthful life. Feel free to modify these tasks so that they work for you.

You can read this book all in one sitting, or you can read one chapter a week and allow the method to unfold as you go. Either way, you should wait to do the Live It! exercises until they are introduced each week; otherwise, you will be trying to do too much too soon. You can do The Program with a friend or family member or even with a group of friends; doing it together can provide invaluable support and accountability. I encourage you to go online to www.theprogrambook.com to take advantage of the many online features available to you. Here, you can participate in The Program with friends and family, track your exercise, keep a food log, and create weekly goals.

Now let’s get started! First, it is important to have a clear picture of your current health, so please answer the Health Risk Assessment Questionnaire that follows. Although your doctor can give you the best assessment of your overall health, you can get a good idea of where you stand from this simple assessment. The scoring is self-explanatory, but no matter how you score, most of us have some room for improvement. Weight, activity, blood pressure, cholesterol, blood sugar, sleep, stress, mood, tobacco, alcohol—all of these count when you look at health. At the end of The Program, take this assessment again to see how much you’ve improved.

HEALTH RISK ASSESSMENT QUESTIONNAIRE

Interpretation

0–2 points: Generally, your health habits are excellent.

3–5 points: You have good health habits, but they could be improved.

6–9 points: Your health habits need improvement.

10–13 points: Your health habits fall into a high-risk profile.

14–24 points: Your health habits fall into a very-high-risk profile.

In addition to taking the Health Risk Assessment, I encourage you to enter the results of your most recent blood tests or physical examination in Health Stats on page 374 in the Appendix so that you can compare your “before” and “after” results upon completing The Program.

Now it’s time to create your health goals. Choose up to three long-term health goals you would like to accomplish. They may be related to weight loss, stress management, higher energy, greater fitness, better sleep habits, healthier eating habits, improved blood pressure, cholesterol or blood sugar, or any other health issue that concerns you. Keep it manageable. Pick no more than three. Make sure your goals are realistic for the twelve-week time period. Don’t aim for the impossible. You can always take things to the next level once you reach your initial goal.

Remember, you don’t have to do it all at once. In fact, you are more likely to succeed if you approach your goals slowly and gradually.

Long-term Goals

Examples:

I want to improve my fitness.

I want to achieve better balance in my life.

I want to lose ten pounds.

Now create up to three short-term goals you can work on this first week that will advance you in the direction of your long-term goals. Design these goals around the SMART goal format. The goals you define should be:

S = specific

M = measurable

A = action-oriented (behavior-based)

R = realistic

T = time-specific

Short-term Goals for Week 1

Examples:

I will walk at least half an hour three times this week.

I will not schedule any work-related meetings or phone calls this week in the evenings so I can spend more time with my family.

I will not eat any desserts this week.

List three challenges that you predict you will encounter as you work toward your goals, and for each challenge, list a strategy you would be willing to try.

CHALLENGE: I feel too tired to exercise when I get home after work.

STRATEGY: I’ll walk Bobby to school instead of driving him. It’s good exercise for him, and I can walk the dog at the same time.

CHALLENGE: I know my client will want to meet in the evening for dinner.

STRATEGY: I’ll say no but suggest three other times we could meet.

CHALLENGE: It’s going to be hard to pass up the doughnuts at work.

STRATEGY: I’ll make sure they are set on the table by the back hall so they won’t be right in front of me.

People often worry that they will fail because they don’t have enough willpower to keep going, but the fact is that achieving your health goals has more to do with having a good game plan than with willpower. Your success depends upon devising strategies to address your particular challenges, strategies that will work for you. You may find it helpful to use the goals log in the Appendix on page 370.

NUTRITION: LET’S BEGIN WITH THE BASICS


We all know that eating right is one of the most important ways to stay healthy, but we also know that this is not always such an easy thing to do. Information about nutrition always seems to be changing. Just when you think you are making a healthy choice, newspaper headlines call it into question. One day tuna is sitting on top of the health throne, the next day it is said to be loaded with mercury. One day vitamin E is touted as the wellspring of health, preventing heart disease and dementia; then studies come along that fail to bear this out.

The subject of nutrition can certainly seem overwhelming, but it is actually pretty straightforward. I’m going to teach you the fundamentals of healthful nutrition over the next twelve weeks. Eating a healthful diet is one of the most important things you can do for yourself whether you want to lose weight or just stay healthy. Let’s start with the basics in order to establish a good foundation.

First, all food is made up of three macronutrients that provide the calories in your diet: carbohydrates, protein, and fat. In the typical American diet, 50 percent of the daily calories come from carbohydrates, 15 percent from protein, and 35 percent from fat. Fad diets that come and go often argue about the supposed perfect ratio of these macronutrients. Some say protein should represent a higher percentage. Some say carbohydrates should represent a higher percentage. The truth is that there is no perfect ratio. Different cultures all over the world eat differently, and ratios differ considerably. It’s not the ratio that indicates whether the diet is healthful. What matters is whether you consume excess calories and whether the macronutrients themselves are of the “good” or “bad” variety. Not all carbohydrates, protein, and fat are created equal. Here’s why.

Let’s take carbohydrates. Every gram of carbohydrate delivers four calories. Carbohydrates are found in grains such as breads and cereals, as well as in fruits, vegetables, and dairy products. Carbohydrates are also found in treats such as candy and baked goods. The “good” carbohydrates, which are the carbohydrates we should all be predominantly eating, are in the whole-grain form. They are not processed or refined. When you eat a refined, processed product, it has been stripped of nutrients and fiber. Stick with whole-grain breads and cereals. Fruits and vegetables are best when they are in their original form. For example, juicing often removes the valuable fiber of a fruit or vegetable, and cooking can inactivate nutrients as well.

Protein comes from both plant and animal sources. Every gram of protein delivers four calories, the same as a carbohydrate; however, meats and meat substitutes are generally higher in calories per serving than carbohydrate-based foods because protein products usually contain more fat. Animal proteins contain largely saturated fat (“bad fat”), while plant and fish proteins contain largely unsaturated fat (“good fat”). Your best choices for protein are therefore plant products and fish. Poultry and eggs are your next best choice.

While protein and carbohydrates deliver four calories for every gram, fat supplies nine calories for every gram. Because of this, it is easy to get more calories than your body needs if you consume a diet high in fat. Fat is classified as “bad” or “good” based on whether it is saturated or not. Trans fat (an artificially created saturated fat) is particularly bad. Saturated fat and trans fat are considered unhealthy partly because they increase “bad” cholesterol and therefore contribute to heart disease, but also because they contribute to other health risks. (Recent research suggests that saturated fat may not be as big a villain as we once thought, but the recommendation is still to minimize it.)

Many processed junk foods and fast foods contain trans fat, although food manufacturers have started removing trans fat from food products lately because the public has become more aware of its health risks. Fat, however, is not all bad. Fat slows the time it takes for food to leave your stomach after you have eaten, so it keeps you feeling full longer. Unsaturated fats are healthy, partly because they improve your “good” cholesterol level, but also because they provide additional health benefits that we’ll go over later.

1 gram of carbohydrate = 4 calories

1 gram of protein = 4 calories

1 gram of fat = 9 calories

There are many other nutrients in food besides carbohydrates, protein, and fat. All have vital roles even though they do not provide calories. These nutrients include water, vitamins, minerals, and phytochemicals. I’ll discuss these nutrients in the coming weeks.

The food you eat can be broken into six main food groups. Each group contains different ratios of carbohydrates, protein, and fat. The six food groups are grains, fruits, vegetables, meats and meat substitutes, dairy products, and fats/oils.

Grains are mostly carbohydrates, but they contain a little fat and protein.

Fruits are all carbohydrates with only a few exceptions (such as olives and avocados).

Vegetables are mostly carbohydrates but also contain a little protein.

Meats are a mixture of protein and fat. Meat substitutes are generally plant-based, made from nuts, seeds, beans, and lentils. Beans and lentils are generally low in fat, while nuts and seeds are high in fat; although the fat in nuts is healthy, the number of calories in each serving is quite high, so watch portions carefully.

Dairy products are a combination of carbohydrates, protein, and fat. They are actually quite high in fat, and because the fat is from an animal, it is of the unhealthy, saturated type. Try to get your dairy products in nonfat form when possible.

Fats and oils are 100 percent fat.

Sweets and treats aren’t actually a food group, but they can be thought of as the seventh food category. They are made up of sugar or refined carbohydrates. Large amounts of saturated fats and trans fats are often found in these foods as well. Examples include cakes, cookies, chips, and candy.

To put this in a way that may be even easier to understand, take a look at “Meet the Food Groups,” which shows you the breakdown of macronutrients in all the basic food groups.

MEET THE FOOD GROUPS
GRAINS

Bread (15% protein, 70% carbohydrate, 15% fat)

Cereal (15% protein, 70% carbohydrate, 15% fat)

Pasta (17% protein, 75% carbohydrate, 8% fat)

Rice (10% protein, 85% carbohydrate, 5% fat)

FRUITS

All fruit is 100% carbohydrate, except:

Avocado* (12.5% protein, 12.5% carbohydrate, 75% fat)

Olive* (15% protein, 85% fat)

VEGETABLES

All vegetables are approximately 90% carbohydrate, 10% protein
MEAT OR MEAT SUBSTITUTES

Lean beef (40% protein, 60% fat)

Pork (45% protein, 55% fat)

Lamb (55% protein, 45% fat)

Chicken with skin (60% protein, 40% fat)

Chicken without skin (75% protein, 25% fat)

Turkey with skin (60% protein, 40% fat)

Turkey without skin (80% protein, 20% fat)

Fish:

Salmon (60% protein, 40% fat)

Red snapper (85% protein, 15% fat)

Beans and lentils (25% protein, 75% carbohydrate)

Chickpeas/garbanzo beans (20% protein, 65% carbohydrate, 15% fat)

Soybeans (30% protein, 30% carbohydrate, 40% fat)

Tofu (40% protein, 10% carbohydrate, 50% fat)

Nuts* and seeds* (15% protein, 15% carbohydrate, 70% fat)

Peanut butter* (15% protein, 15% carbohydrate, 70% fat)

Egg (40% protein, 60% fat)

DAIRY

Whole milk (20% protein, 30% carbohydrate, 50% fat)

Nonfat milk (40% protein, 60% carbohydrate, 0% fat)

Whole-milk yogurt (15% protein, 75% carbohydrate, 10% fat)

Nonfat yogurt (25% protein, 75% carbohydrate, 0% fat)

Cheese* (25% protein, 75% fat)

Low-fat cheese (50% protein, 50% fat)

Sour cream* (7.5% protein, 7.5% carbohydrate, 85% fat)

Nonfat sour cream (25% protein, 75% carbohydrate)

Cream cheese* (10% protein, 90% fat)

Nonfat cream cheese (70% protein, 30% carbohydrate)

Cream* (100% fat)

Whole-milk cottage cheese (50% protein, 15% carbohydrate, 35% fat)

Nonfat cottage cheese (80% protein, 20% carbohydrate, 0% fat)

FATS AND OILS

Vegetable oils* (100% fat)

Butter* (100% fat)

SWEETS AND TREATS

Cookie (5% protein, 55% carbohydrate, 40% fat)

Cake (5% protein, 50% carbohydrate, 45% fat)

Chocolate bar (5% protein, 45% carbohydrate, 50% fat)

Hard candy (100% carbohydrate)

Brownie (5% protein, 65% carbohydrate, 30% fat)

Pastry (5% protein, 40% carbohydrate, 55% fat)

Doughnut (5% protein, 50% carbohydrate, 45% fat)

Whole-milk ice cream* (5% protein, 25% carbohydrate, 70% fat)

Nonfat frozen yogurt (15% protein, 85% carbohydrate)

* Any food containing 70% or more fat is often regarded as a “fat.” Examples include cheese, nuts, avocados, olives, peanut butter, sour cream, cream, cream cheese, ice cream.

Next week, I’ll go over the food groups in more detail to help you design your own personal nutritional plan, but here are two things you can do this week.

1 Start keeping a food log of everything you eat each day. This can be an extremely valuable tool. Whether you want to lose weight or simply develop better eating habits, a food log will help raise your consciousness regarding your eating patterns. It will help you identify what, when, where, why, and how you eat. Take the time to do this. It will make a big difference.

This may seem tedious at first, but many studies show that food and exercise logs are one of the most powerful tools in behavior change. Tracking creates a heightened awareness that stimulates your powerful frontal cortex (the area in your brain devoted to higher, complex thinking) to become more engaged in behaviors that have become automatic and reflexive.

Some people find that tracking for just the first few weeks is all they really need to jump-start their awareness, but others find it helps to continue tracking over the long haul. You decide. For the first few weeks of The Program, however, I urge everyone to keep a log. An example of a food log is included in the Appendix on page 369, but feel free to use any method of tracking that works for you. You can track other things, too: you can track your weight if you are working on weight loss; you can track your mood if you are working on feeling happier or less stressed.

2 Remove all the junk food from your house. The less junk food kept in the house, the easier it is to eat healthfully. If for some reason you feel you cannot remove the junk food from your house—for instance, if a family member insists that it stay—put it all in one cupboard of the kitchen, in an out-of-sight, hard-to-reach location. Stock the house with healthful, easy-to-grab snacks such as cut fresh fruit and veggies, low-fat string cheese, nonfat yogurt, and low-fat, high-fiber energy bars. The easier it is to eat healthful food, the more likely it is to happen.

In this first week, don’t worry about following any specific dietary plan. That will come next week. Just try to eliminate sweets and treats from your diet. If you are really eager to get started on a specific nutrition plan, though, you can read ahead to Week 2.

FITNESS: THE IMPORTANCE OF BEING FIT


One major theme that runs throughout The Program is the importance of physical activity to health. Whatever health goals you may have, the importance of a regular exercise program cannot be overstated. Our bodies are wired to move. At a cellular level, things start to go awry when we stop moving our bodies.

There are three components of fitness: cardiorespiratory, strength, and flexibility. I’ll go over each of these in detail throughout the coming weeks, but all three components play a role in keeping one healthy.

A solid exercise program consists of 30 to 60 minutes of moderate- to high-intensity aerobic activity most days of the week, with 5 minutes of flexibility exercises daily and two or three 15-minute sessions per week of resistance exercises, particularly targeting the five big core muscles of your body: your chest, abdomen, back, shoulders, and thighs. This may sound daunting at first, but it really isn’t once you get into the swing of it.

Why Be fit?

Exercise can boost your metabolic rate by as much as 20 to 30 percent.

One question I’m asked all the time is: What is the minimum amount one has to do to stay healthy? Come on, admit it, you were wondering that too. Well, you could get the very minimum amount of exercise you need each day by walking for a half hour. You should walk at a brisk clip for the exercise to be intense enough, and you really need to do it every day. It’s okay if you miss a day here or there, but try to do it every day. That is the minimum we all need to do to begin to tap into the health benefits of exercise and see a reduction in disease. More exercise, however, will increase the benefits you reap.

For most resistance exercises, you really don’t need any special equipment other than your own body. In The Program, we do present some exercises that use a resistance band. A band is easily obtained online or at any sporting goods store for about $10. No matter what you do, though, keep it simple. That’s the major message I want you to hear.

Flexibility exercises are easy and require no special equipment. You should do them when your body temperature is warm, so an ideal time is right after you finish your aerobic activity. You could also do flexibility exercises first thing after a warm shower or bath.

Physical activity helps to achieve virtually any health goal you may be working toward, so let me explain exactly why exercise is so important to good health.

First, having a regular exercise program is the most important predictor not only of weight loss but also of weight maintenance. Of people who have lost significant amounts of weight and kept it off over the long haul, more than 90 percent engage in regular exercise, with walking being the most popular mode of exercise and 270 minutes being the average total amount of time spent exercising each week. This translates into about 40 minutes a day or 60 minutes four to six days per week. It is extremely helpful to keep an up-to-date exercise log in plain view so that you can stay realistic at all times about your progress.

Physical activity also significantly reduces your risk of developing heart disease. People without known heart disease who exercise even modestly but on a regular, consistent basis are significantly less likely to suffer from heart disease and more likely to live longer lives. People who have already had a heart attack who walk for 30 minutes a day have an 80 percent increase in survival rate.

Physical activity reduces your risk of developing diabetes. When you exercise, your muscles release growth factors that stimulate an increased production of insulin receptors; these growth factors also help your circulating insulin work more efficiently. By improving the sensitivity of your cells’ insulin receptors, you can either avoid developing diabetes or, if you already have diabetes, achieve better control of it.

Exercise also stimulates the immune system, so people who exercise on a regular basis are less likely to get infections.

The risk of developing certain cancers, in particular breast and colon cancers, is reduced in those who exercise regularly. Regular exercise has been shown to decrease the risk of breast cancer by 50 percent and colon cancer by 60 percent.

Memory is improved by aerobic exercise through an increase in BDNF, brainderived neurotrophic (nerve growth) factor. You actually make more brain cells when you exercise! Imagine that! In the elderly, regular exercise lowers the incidence of dementia. At a chemical level, when you exercise, your muscles release growth factors, which migrate to the brain and activate genes that produce proteins necessary for building the new infrastructure for new nerve networks. This is one of the most remarkable new discoveries about the brain.

Exercise increases mental alertness. When you exercise, you produce more neurotransmitters such as norepinephrine and dopamine. These chemicals increase your attention and motivation. The effect seems to be highest in the first couple of hours after you exercise, but if you exercise on a regular basis, you will find that you are more alert in general.

Mood is enhanced by regular exercise. When you exercise, the brain’s release of serotonin facilitates a calmer, happier mood.

Regular exercise often decreases chronic pain from any source. This is because exercise increases the release of endorphins, endocannabinoids, and serotonin, all of which increase a person’s pain threshold. Exercise also reduces joint pain from arthritis because it stimulates an increase in the production of synovial fluid, which bathes and lubricates the joints.

Sleep is greatly improved by regular exercise. Exercise accentuates your natural body temperature swings throughout the day, and this increases the amount of time you spend in the deeper, more restorative stages of sleep, stages three and four. It is in these deeper stages of sleep that you release vital chemicals that stimulate your immune system and repair the ongoing wear and tear of daily living.

Exercise is one of the best ways to manage stress. When you exercise, your rapidly beating heart releases a chemical called atrial natriuretic peptide (ANP), which crosses over to the brain and directly turns off the stress response. Exercise also elevates calming endorphins and endocannabinoids and the calming feelgood chemical serotonin, which I’ve mentioned before. Exercise not only turns the stress response off, it gives you a longer fuse, so the stress response doesn’t activate as easily in the first place.

Weight-bearing exercise promotes bone strength and decreases the chance of developing osteoporosis so that fracture risk is reduced. Fractures are also reduced because core muscle strength is improved. This leads to better balance and fewer falls among the elderly.

Finally, it has been shown that people who exercise regularly not only enjoy longer lives but also have higher-quality lives than those who remain sedentary. Now, that’s pretty tough to beat!

LEARN IT!

All areas of your health are interconnected.

Fifty percent of all health problems can be prevented by a healthy lifestyle.

Your brain resists sudden change but accepts gradual change.

All foods are made up of three macronutrients: carbohydrates, protein, and fat.

1 gram of carbohydrate = 4 calories; 1 gram of protein = 4 calories; 1 gram of fat = 9 calories.

“Good” carbohydrates are unprocessed; “bad” carbohydrates have been processed and stripped of fiber and other nutrients.

“Good” proteins are either low in fat or contain unsaturated fats; “bad” proteins are high in saturated fat.

“Good” fats are unsaturated; “bad” fats are either naturally or artificially saturated.

Your body is wired to move. Exercise is essential to good health.

The minimum amount of exercise needed to stay healthy is 30 minutes on average each day.

Physical fitness improves mood, alertness, energy, and the ability to learn. It decreases health risks by preventing infections, cancers, heart disease, diabetes, obesity, and dementia, to name a few.

PERSONALIZE IT!

This week, work on your Selective Brain.

Your brain does not consciously process all of the information it is exposed to on a daily basis; it is selective. Selective attention allows your brain to think while being on autopilot, therefore letting you do something else; but it can also allow unhealthy behaviors without your even being aware you are doing them. Change often starts by simply paying close attention to whatever behavior you would like to change.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vbe-Fv6V1O4

Your Selective Brain

Here are some examples of how people in The Program have personalized this brain principle and put it into action.

Shelby T., a 45-year-old venture capitalist, wrote down her goals and kept them by the parking brake of her car, so every time she drove anywhere she could remind herself of her goals and behaviors she was working on. These constant reminders helped keep her goals uppermost in her mind.

Alice Y., a 26-year-old law student, set up her computer to text-message herself several times a day as a reminder to keep a food journal because she frequently grazed all day without thinking about it. Eventually she became conscious of her eating behavior without these constant reminders.

Nick S., a 51-year-old biology professor, kept a spreadsheet on his computer of how many miles he had accumulated daily on his pedometer so he could see at a glance how he was doing on his exercise goals. The simple act of tracking his miles every day gave his daily exercise a higher priority level and he was more likely to make time for it.

LIVE IT!

Take the Health Risk Assessment to get a clear picture of where your health currently stands. Fill out the Health Stats form in the Appendix, page 374.

Create three long-term health goals for The Program and three short-term goals for this week.

Clear out the junk food from your cupboards and stock up on healthful food.

Begin tracking your daily food intake and exercise, and think of ways you can set up regular reminders for yourself regarding your goals.

Start moving. If you have been sedentary for a long time, you may want to start by walking for 10 minutes a day, working your way up to 30 minutes. You can also divide your cardio exercise into three 10-minute sessions each day to meet the 30-minute daily goal.

Meet the Author

Kelly Traver, MD received her medical degree from Stanford where she also specialized in Internal Medicine. During an additional year as chief resident she won the Excellence in Teaching award and currently serves as an adjunct clinical assistant professor of medicine at Stanford. Dr. Traver has been practicing medicine for more than seventeen years, but her background also includes research in biochemistry, teaching in a Stanford neuroanatomy lab and a brief public health study in South Africa while in medical school. She recently served as medical director at Google and is currently on the board for the Institute for the Future. Dr. Traver is the founder of Healthiest You, a company that works with corporations, health care organizations, and the government to help individuals become more empowered and engaged in their health. She lives with her husband and children in Portola Valley, California.

Betty Kelly Sargent is a longtime book and magazine editor who has coauthored seven books. She lives in New York City and Tuscany.

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