Category Archives: Health

How to Live Longer and Healthier

So you want to live longer? Healthier? Happier? The first thing you should do is…

Get off your butt! Stand up! Quit sitting so much! There, I said it. It sounds too simple doesn’t it? But it’s a fact – Sitting for long periods is killing you regardless of your exercise regimen.

According to this study published in the American Journal of Epidemiology:

  • Regardless of physical activity – Women who sat more than 6 hours a day were 37% more likely to die prematurely than those who sat fewer than 3 hours a day.
  • Regardless of physical activity – Men who sat more than 6 hours a day were 18% more likely to die prematurely than those who sat fewer than 3 hours per day.
  • Combined with lack of physical activity – Women who sat more than 6 hours a day were 94% more likely to die prematurely than those who sat fewer than 3 hours a day.
  • Combined with lack of physical activity – Men who sat more than 6 hours a day were 48% more likely to die prematurely than those who sat fewer than 3 hours a day.

My Personal Story

I’m open to trying new ideas to see if they can improve my well being and my productivity, so a few months ago I put together a sit/stand workstation in my office. Today I spend 80% of my work day standing.

Here’s what happened:

  • I’ve dropped 3 pounds without changing anything in my lifestyle
  • I sleep better at night
  • I have more energy during the day
  • For over six years I’ve had joint pain in my knees and my hips. It’s gone.
  • For years, I’ve had dull pains in my abdomen, just under my ribs. It’s gone.
  • I’m more productive while standing
  • I feel I’m more creative while standing
  • I can’t imagine ever going back to sitting at a computer all day

The Information Age Changed Everything

Years ago sitting wasn’t as common as it is today. When we were an agrarian society, we had to get up early and work on the farm or we’d starve. During the industrial revolution we stood on our feet working the factory floor, but in the information age, many of us spend 8-10 hours a day on our butt in front of a computer, spend 45 minutes in the gym, and then spend the rest of the evening sitting in front of the TV, or a video game, or a computer again. We have to make a living writing, or programming, or building websites, or helping others on the internet. So how can we change?

  • We have to stand up at our computers!
  • We have to stand up when we game!
  • We have to stand up when we write!
  • We have to stand up when we program!

Burn Double the Calories

According to Marc Hamilton (associate professor of biomedical sciences at University of Missouri-Columbia) simply standing up will burn double the calories while talking on the phone or watching a sporting event. I assume the same is true of using a computer.

Fend Off Disease

A growing body of evidence shows that sitting for long periods increases your risk of developing heart disease, diabetes, cancer, and obesity. See this article about the link between sitting and diabetes and cancer, and this article about the link between sitting and heart disease.

Stand Up and Build your Health Consciousness

35 years ago, science began delivering data that smoking was killing us. Since then the smoking rate has dropped from 60% to 20%. Similar health benefits can be gained by creating a sit/stand culture in your company, at home, at school, and anywhere else we spend too much time sitting. This doesn’t need 35 years to take hold. Changing the way we work is easy and relatively inexpensive (ask me how). With most lifestyle related changes, you have the power. You get to decide what you eat. You get to decide not to smoke. You get to decide to exercise. Now you need to decide to stand up while you work! If you own a business, create sit/stand workspaces at your company. If you don’t own a business, change your workspace. If your employer doesn’t understand, send them the facts about what sitting is doing to your health.

Join the Sit/Stand Uprising at:

If you’re interested in learning how you can stand more, send me a note via my contact page and I’ll see how I can help you.

7 Things My 7 Year Old Learned From MMA (Mixed Martial Arts)

If your kids are like mine, and don’t care for team sports, MMA is an excellent alternative.

My son does MMA training 3 nights a week at the American School of Martial Arts in Savage MN. When he chose to take Karate, we visited several different schools, and he decided on MMA. He liked the school, the instructor, and the structure. He can quit any time he wishes. But he knows, if he quits, it’s final, and I am never taking him back (just a little lesson about the power of decision).

7 Things My 7 Year Old Learned from MMA

Goal Setting – It started with learning a Kenpo technique called the Snapping Twain. He was determined to do it correctly. Then he began focusing on earning stripes for his belt, and later decided to earn his first belt. The goals he sets in MMA are not easy to achieve. They take months of focus and consistent practice. Now, without my prompting he sets financial goals and educational goals for himself, and I credit the things he’s learned in MMA training

Persistence – He’s been at this 18 months and still hasn’t earned his second belt. His first belt took 9 months. Some days he practices free grappling, which is Jiu Jitsu (the art of softness – no hitting or punching). He lost dozens of these matches, but improved with each loss. Previously, he avoided things that weren’t easy for him, now he accepts the challenge even if the odds are are against him. Why? He’s discovered that if he keeps trying, he will improve. Sometimes he sees improvement in an hour, other times it takes months. But with consistent effort, improvement happens. This is the same son that invented the word “Shandshowbo” when he was 4. It means keep trying even when it’s hard.

Confidence – There is no substitute for self-confidence. If you don’t believe in your ability to overcome obstacles, if fear of failure stops you, you will never reach your goals.

“Confidence comes not from always being right but from not fearing to be wrong.”

Confidence comes from deep inside, and it is reflected in your posture, the way you shake hands, if you look someone in the eye when they speak to you. The kids at ASMA are taught to stand up straight, look each other in the eye, shake hands, and speak clearly and confidently. In my experience, very few kids have the basic social skills that come with confidence. Confidence comes from knowing you have the mental and physical strength to deal with adversity and challenge. MMA training fosters that confidence.

Nutrition – Look at a group of today’s youth and you’ll see that few kids understand the foundation of good nutrition. MMA training stresses the importance of eating healthy natural foods and avoiding sugar, HFCS, and processed foods. Each day, the instructor requires my son to name 5 fruits and vegetables he has eaten that day. If he can’t, he does 25 push ups. This method has been so effective, in 18 months, my son has never had to do those push ups. By 6 years old, he developed an obsession with eating healthy foods. He nags us to feed him healthy food. Today, he frequently says things like, “I’m not eating candy for the next 60 days.” He does this with no prompting from me or the instructors. He does it because he wants to be healthy and test himself. That is radical self-discipline for a 7 year old.

Physical Fitness – Each training session starts with a 10-15 minute run, followed by a routine of stretches and calisthenics. After about a year, he could do over 100 squats and 50 push-ups in near perfect form. Many mornings he gets up early and works out for 20 minutes on his own. One morning I awoke at 6 AM to sounds coming from the living room. There was my son doing squats. Physical fitness isn’t a goal, it’s a habit, and MMA training ingrains the habit young.

Frustration Tolerance – Trying something difficult for the first time is frustrating, especially if you’re around other people who make it look easy. The same is the case for MMA training. Many times my son grapples with bigger more experienced kids, they end up on top of him, and it’s frustrating and difficult to get out from underneath them. I’ve seen the frustration on his face after a difficult situation. A situation when he fails repeatedly. But in time, I’ve seen him turn that frustration from fear and anger, into determination, and finally achievement.

Focused Attention – Your strength and ability at any task, is directly related to your ability to focus your attention on your goal and the task at hand. The power of focused attention is the most powerful thing you control. The importance of focus can’t be stressed enough. I don’t care what you’re doing, writing, painting, drawing, speaking, running, or swinging a golf club, focus is essential.

As many of you know, children, especially boys, struggle with focus and attention, some more than others. Some kids just “space off” a little, others are diagnosed with ADD/ADHD and are prescribed powerful psychotropic drugs. Putting a child on mind altering drugs is a huge decision, one that shouldn’t be taken lightly. Alternative treatments are possible, and Martial Arts training can and has worked as an alternative therapy for ADD/ADHD. (Please do not stop any medication without consulting with your child’s physician.)

Many kids show typical ADD/ADHD symptoms because they aren’t getting enough exercise. Parents and schools tend to discipline a hyperactive child by making them sit still for long periods of time (timeout). For most hyper kids, this only produces more hyperactivity. Instead, have them run laps or do squats or push ups. Exercise helps kids focus.

Sportsmanship – Have you seen a kid throw a fit when they don’t win? Have you seen him mock his opponent when he does win? Have you seen a child look for a weaker opponent simply because he didn’t want to lose? Have you seen him refuse to try when he realized he would probably lose? These are all issues of sportsmanship. Sportsmanship is a basic social skill we all should master. We all compete at some level, and good sportsmanship reflects strong character.

Trying challenging things and failing builds sportsmanship, and MMA training challenges kids. No one is a superstar on day one. Everything is earned and all bullying is shunned.

Why MMA?

My son loves it and he doesn’t like team sports. Maybe that will change, but until it does, MMA provides all the physical and mental benefits of team sports.

We hear a constant refrain about the dangers facing our children today – Obesity, ADD/ADHD, Stranger Abduction, and Apathy. We also hear about the entitlementality – kids growing up believing they’re entitled to things that must be earned – things that cannot be bestowed from the outside – things that must be grown over time in your soul. To build a strong future we need to help young men and women build a strong character. Unfortunately, for the most part, character isn’t being learned or taught in our schools.

Building strong character begins at home, but a child needs input for many sources, sources that may not be available in every home. As parents we are limited to our own knowledge and perspectives, and for me and Christine, that isn’t enough. Our kids need role models, who can share knowledge and experience, we as parents do not have.

21 Surefire Ways to Stay Motivated

Photo by Tomoyoshi

Have you set a goal (like a business plan or a weight loss regimen) in a burst of energy and excitement, only to find after a few weeks the excitement fades? Your progress slows, then stops, and you regress to where you started? Unfortunately, for many of us, this has become a habit. Regardless if the goal involves diet, exercise, money, education, relationships, business, or career, the pattern is the same, a peak of euphoria, optimism, and creativity, followed by a trough of fatigue, boredom, and loss of interest.

Quitting is a habit. The habit is reinforced by your emotional state which is always experiencing peaks and valleys.  The good news is, habits can be changed with persistence and effort.

I’ve gathered 21 tips (from mentors, books, and blogs) that will help you stay motivated to achieve your long term goals:
Continue reading 21 Surefire Ways to Stay Motivated

Seven Things You Should Know About Computer Use and Vision

You spend too much time in front of a screen. We all do. Here are some things you need to know (stolen from Carrie Schmitz at the Ergotron blog). First I am going to give you the list of things you need to know followed by a list of things you can do to prevent damage to your vision.

Seven Things You Should Know About Computer Use and Vision

1. Staring at a computer screen results in nearly 60% reduction in blink rate leading to dry, irritated eyes blurred vision and headaches.

2. Computers are particularly hard on the eyes of contact lens users.

3. Myopic (near-sighted people who can’t see distant objects as clearly as close ones) who spend more than eight hours a day in front of a computer are 82% more likely to develop glaucoma along with symptoms of Computer Vision Syndrome (CVS).

4. Increased fluid pressure within the eye can compress optic nerves, which causes glaucoma leading to blindness if not treated. One of the major symptoms of glaucoma is blurred vision.

5. Research shows that computer use increases near-sightedness (myopia).

6. As you age, the ability of your eyes to focus and stay lubricated diminishes, putting you at higher risk for CVS.

7. Children generally tend to be less self-aware than adults and will often ignore feelings of discomfort when using a computer.

Seven Ways to Protect Your Vision (and the vision of the children in your life) While Using a Computer

1. Position your monitor to minimize eye and body strain:

· Distance: at least an arm’s length away from face.

· Height: the middle of the screen should be 20-30 degrees below eye level.

· Angle: tilt the screen to prevent glare from strong light or surrounding surfaces.

· Orientation: monitor should be directly in front you.

2. Practice Dr. Anshel’s 20/20/20 rule: every twenty minutes turn your eyes away from the computer and focus on an object about 20 feet away for about 20 seconds.

3. You can install software that regulates blinking and keeps eye muscles fit.

4. Use over-the-counter tear substitutes to lubricate eyes.

5. Get your eyes examined every year.

6. Consider computer glasses – some are tinted to counteract florescent light; some increase the humidity on the ocular surface to increase comfort and prevent long-term damage.

7. Full color monitors are preferable; a display setting with black letters on white background is most comfortable; increase font size on computer screen to fight squinting.

14 Tips for Healthy Computing

Do you know how to avoid a stiff neck, back aches, burning eyes, and repetitive stress injuries when you spend a lot of time in front of your computer?

14 Tips for Healthy Computing:

  1. Make your workstation fit you. Since we all come in different shapes and sizes, you need to know what is the optimal ergonomic setup for your body. Here is a tool which will help you find out what is right for you.
  2. If you use a laptop for longer than two hours without proper ergonomics it can wreak havoc on your body. You can minimize these problems by using a laptop mount or lift arm.
  3. Position the monitor no closer than 20 inches (508 mm) from your eyes. A good rule of thumb is an arm’s length distance.
  4. Adjust your monitor height so that the top of your screen is at or slightly below eye level. Your eyes should look slightly downward when viewing the middle of the screen.
  5. Adjust your screen position to eliminate glare from windows and ceiling lights.
  6. If lighting conditions permit, tilt your monitor back 10° to 20°: this maintains the same distance between your eyes and the screen as you scan it from top to bottom. Exception: If using bifocals, lower the monitor below eye level and turn screen upward,tilting it back 30° to 45°.
  7. The center-line of the keyboard should be level with the height of your elbow.
  8. Tilt the keyboard back 10° so that your wrists remain flat.
  9. Use an adjustable chair. Get comfortable with its features and make adjustments regularly.
  10. Rest your eyes periodically by focusing on an object 20+ feet away.
  11. Stand and stretch your back and arms from time to time.
  12. Position whatever you are looking at most of the time (the screen or reference material) directly in front of you to minimize turning your head.
  13. Remember that even if your workstation is set up properly, you can still get muscle fatigue from being in the same position for too long. Be sure to periodically adjust your monitor, keyboard or chair to stay flexible.
  14. Minimize the amount of time you spend using a laptop without proper ergonomic height adjustment. I know you own a laptop because it allows you to work in the coffee shop, on a park bench, at the swimming pool or from any room in your home and it’s okay in moderation, but prolonged use of a laptop in a non-ergonomic environment can have long term consequences.

My Day Job

When I’m not blogging, I work for Ergotron, so I have access to a wealth of information about healthy computing.

At some point I wanted to introduce you all to my day job so I want to thank Jeff Atwood for giving me the opportunity by starting a conversation about ergonomic and healthy computing. Jeff Atwood at Coding Horror recently posted some great information about ergonomic computer workstations and it got me thinking… (HT to Riley McArdle)

As many of you know I am no evangelist for the corporate lifestyle, but some corporations are improving people’s lives and Ergotron is one of those companies. Ergotron is a different kind of company – we are green, entrepreneurial, innovative, and compassionate and that’s why I work here.

What we do at Ergotron… In my own words…

We create products that promote the wellness of each unique individual.

As our CEO Joel Hazzard said, “We’re improving people’s lives – you can be proud of what you do – it’s not like we’re selling cigarettes here.” 🙂

Relaxing in the Middle of the Storm

Do you ever have times when your stress level saps your health, your stamina, and your capacity to think?

When you are sick, your spouse is sick, your kids are sick, you are buried in work, your co-workers are buried in work, and everyone seems to need more and more and more of you? The demands on you exceed your bandwidth? And the people you normally ask for help are under more stress than you?

Have you had times when this has gone on for weeks? And on top of it, there is a death in the family or serious illness combined with a financial hardship? Then your car breaks down? Your basement leaks? A tree falls on your house?

What can you do? How can a person handle such stress?

Read this… and learn to relax in the middle of the storm. After all, the storm is your life right now and you created it. Live it.

Why You Must Take Action Now

Your well-being depends upon taking positive action.

If you are living a life you hate – one that exhausts your energy – one in which you feel trapped – one that creates physical pain – you must make changes. You must take action. Because if you exist in this state long enough you aren’t living, you aren’t even surviving, you are dying.

If you ever feel trapped by life, you’re a lot like me and you may find this story useful.

When I stop growing, it leads to physical and emotional pain. Let me give you an example.

Last Tuesday morning, Christine flew to Las Vegas leaving me alone with my 2 and 4-year-old sons. I was excited as I planned every detail of the upcoming week alone with my boys.

Day 1 – Tuesday

I followed my plan and our day was perfect.

Day 2 – Wednesday

At 7 AM – it all went wrong.

While getting dressed, my 4-year-old was squirming, talking non-sense, and being uncooperative. As I pulled a sweater down over his head, he fell to the ground screaming and writhing in pain. He held his neck and wailed, “Dad my neck hurts! It hurts bad! Why did you do that?” He calmed a bit and said, “You still love me even when you hurt me, right dad?” The guilt shot through my body like a venomous poison.

His sweater was one size too small and when I pulled it down instead of his head popping through the hole, his neck popped. It scared both of us, and he’s better now, but I spent the rest of the day wracked with guilt and worry. We didn’t leave the house, not even to get the mail.

Even though I didn’t do anything physical that day, by bedtime I was so exhausted I could barely move. Every joint in my body ached and I had a headache and a cough.

Day 3 – Thursday

I planned to take the boys to the zoo in the morning and Playworks in the afternoon, but a blizzard began. With a 2-year-old and an injured 4-year-old, I couldn’t get outside to remove the snow, so I watched it accumulate out the window. As the snow continued, it became apparent I wouldn’t be able to get a sitter to watch them while I dug out. I felt helpless to perform a basic snow removal task, so I watched the snowfall and did nothing.

After a while, I decided to take them out to play, but I discovered that I had left their winter clothes at school, so we couldn’t go outside. Stuck again.

Then I began to see unfinished things that needed to be completed. Our bedroom was half painted, but I couldn’t work on it. I couldn’t read or write, because as soon as I started, the boys interrupted me. I spent most of the day, playing choo choo trains.

Don’t misunderstand me, I love spending time with my kids, but I was wracked with guilt about the injury and now I was literally trapped inside my house unable to accomplish anything productive.

By the end of Thursday, I was emotionally dead, and my knees and hips ached. I was amazed how fast I deteriorated. I tried every personal development trick I know and nothing worked.

I knew the only way to break out of this negative pattern was positive action. I’ve battled mild depression my entire life, and the only cure I’ve found is positive action. But with the blizzard and the kids, there was no path to action. There was no escape. I can see how so many stay at home moms develop agoraphobia and depression.

Fast forward to Saturday.

  • I shoveled snow for two hours in the morning
  • Played outdoor ice hockey with the boys for hours
  • Took the boys grocery shopping while Christine caught up on business
  • Played games with the boys while Christine finished painting the bedroom
  • Vacuumed the entire house
  • Wrote a thousand words
  • Rearranged the living room
  • Rearranged the bedrooms – moving a king-sized bed

On Saturday, my energy levels were high and at bedtime, I felt no pain. I awoke on Sunday morning refreshed and free of pain although I was more active on Saturday than I was on Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday combined. What was the difference? I didn’t feel trapped. Christine and I were accomplishing enjoyable tasks that created positive results.

I used to drive a truck, and it was the most depressing time of my life, because I felt trapped. I didn’t see any other options. During this time, my mental and physical health deteriorated. I didn’t feel I was accomplishing anything – I felt I was just driving around in circles all day. I didn’t see any short term or long term positive results from my actions, just constant monotony without improvement.

This even happened as an entrepreneur when we owned and operated (nothing to see anymore). A year after we launched the company we were so busy repeating maintenance tasks that we couldn’t find time to automate the process. Both Christine and I felt trapped like rats on a wheel. Micheal Gerber writes about this problem in the e-myth revisited. If your business doesn’t run without you, you don’t own a business – your business owns you.

For most of my life, I didn’t understand how negative emotions drained me, how the feeling of being trapped destroys your sense of well-being, and how to counteract the problem. While there was little I could do about the weather last week, I value the experience because it reminds me of a time, to which I never wish to return. Today I see the signs when I am slipping into mental and emotional inertia, and can counteract it through positive thought and action.

If you find yourself in the position I was in last week (minus the blizzard – there isn’t much you can do about the weather), I’ll give you a simple formula you can use to escape.

  1. You must recognize that you’ve trapped yourself in a negative emotional state. You need to stop and listen to yourself for a minute and you’ll notice your anger, depression, shame, or guilt. I used sit around feeling miserable without even knowing I felt miserable. As strange as it sounds, sometimes we get so used to feeling miserable, we’re afraid of what life would be like if we weren’t miserable. The best indicator that you are trapped in a negative cycle is when you keep doing something you hate over and over but feel powerless to stop – like an addiction without the euphoria.
  2. Open your mind to the possibility that you posses the power to change your life. This means that you quit making excuses and realize that you can take action to improve yourself. The biggest obstacle to changing your circumstances is you. Look in the mirror for the answer.
  3. Change something you know you have the power to change. Start with something simple, like cleaning a bathroom or sweeping out the garage. You need to do something to build momentum. To start it’s best to find something you can complete quickly and easily with positive results. I like to write. Sometimes I fix something that’s broken or I begin cleaning.
  4. Once you’ve made one positive change in your environment – don’t stop. Take a minute and be grateful that you were able to make a positive change in your world and then think of something else you want to change and act on that. Hell, make a list of things you’d like to change and prioritize them. Don’t ever stop improving your world.

Always Question Your Doctor – Three Stories Why

These three stories may help save your life someday and I hope they will help you make the best possible medical decisions.

Gall Bladder Surgery

12 years ago at age 25, a doctor diagnosed me with gallstones and she recommended that I have my gall bladder removed. The first inaccurate thing they told me was that the procedure was safe. It isn’t. They didn’t tell me that Continue reading Always Question Your Doctor – Three Stories Why

A Simple Formula for Weight Loss and Long-Term Maintenance

The secret to losing weight isn’t really a secret at all – It’s simple and it’s free. I’ll get to that later in the post, but first I want to give you some background.

In the past, it was difficult for me to lose weight because I choose to believe it was complicated. I choose to believe that thin people had a special genetic makeup that allowed them to be thin and that the only way I could be thin again was to find a magic solution. I never found that solution. I tried Atkins, South Beach, and other diet fads to lose weight and they worked for a while, but I always bounced back to where I started. Diet plans worked temporarily because they got me to change my lifestyle temporarily. As soon as I reverted to my old lifestyle the weight returned.

In order for me to lose weight and maintain the new weight, I had to change my beliefs about weight loss and weight maintenance. I had to dump my belief that somehow weight loss was complicated. I had to drop the belief that the solution lies outside of me. I had to dump my belief in a magic solution that I hadn’t yet discovered.

A weight problem is like a debt problem. We get into debt by:

  1. Not paying attention to how much we are spending
  2. Planning to earn more and failing to deliver
  3. Denying how deep we’ve gotten

The weight problem goes like this:

  1. Not paying attention to how much we are eating
  2. Planning to exercise and failing to do it…enough
  3. Denying how heavy we are

I did some research about my problem and implemented this simple plan.
Here are the numbers:

  • I am a 37 year old man
  • Starting weight 200 lbs
  • Goal weight 175 lbs
  • Mildly active and likely to remain mildly active
  • I burn about 2500 calories per day
  • Eating 2000 calories per day resulted in 4-6 lbs lost each month.
  • It took about 5 months to lose 25 lbs.
  • Now I can eat 2500 calories per day and maintain 175 lbs indefinitely

People design name brand diet plans to trick you into applying this simple formula without thinking about it. But that is the problem – you need to think about it. Long-term success requires you to pay attention to what you eat and understand the formula. Try solving a debt problem without paying attention to your spending. It won’t work.

The above formula is simple, healthy, safe, and available here. Plug in your numbers and put the plan into action – It worked for me and it will work for you. To determine the caloric value of the food you eat, visit this site. Remember I said it was simple, not easy. Sometimes it is hard to change your deeply held beliefs. But when you begin to believe the solution to your weight problem lies within you and not outside of you, your chances for success increase exponentially.

It only requires three things:

  • Pay attention to what you are eating
  • Believe the solution lies within you
  • Commit to long term lifestyle change

Weight loss is that simple. (with the exception of a few rare metabolic conditions)

Before I posted this, I asked my wife to read it. She said, “What’s new here? Doesn’t everybody know this?” I said, “If everybody knows this, why is weight loss a multi-billion dollar industry?” She answered, “Because everyone wants to believe their weight problem is bigger than them. It can’t be just about them.” Ah! Touche! Touche!

This post was entered in the ProBlogger Group Writing Project- How to.