Jack in the gym and jump in a cold shower – neuroscientist shares 'bio-hacks' to lose weight
IT sounds too good to be true but taking cold showers and dimming the lights in the evening could be better for you than hitting the gym, according to a top neuroscientist.
Dr Julia Jones reckons simple changes to our daily routines will help us lose weight, fight off illness and sleep better.
In her new book, Neuron Smart Wellness Made Easy, she reveals how last year she ditched dieting and the gym but still managed to lose the 10lbs she had been struggling to shift for a decade and lowered her biological age from 55 to her true age of 50.
Julia, whose revelations come the week after researchers found women who have trouble sleeping are almost twice as likely to suffer serious heart problems, recommends little tricks, or “bio-hacks”, you can do every day.
She said: “I started making little changes to see what happened — things that take much less effort and money and are easy enough to keep doing forever, no matter how old you are or how much money you have.”
Here, Julia shares her top tips for “smart” wellness:
7:00 MAKE YOUR BED: This triggers the release of positive brain chemicals first thing, increasing the likelihood of you having a good day. I make my bed really well. I bought a new blanket to go over my duvet so it always looks smooth and neat.
7:15 GO OUTSIDE: Go outside as early as you can, even if you are just waiting for the kettle to boil. Natural daylight reaching the back of your eye triggers your body clock. If you don’t go out, your natural sleep timer isn’t activated. Sleep is vital for health.
8:00 GRAB A BREW: I bought a high-quality coffee and savour the taste to help trigger the release of positive brain chemicals. I use filters, as research shows oils in coffee can be harmful while the coffee itself can have lots of benefits.
8:30 TURN THE SHOWER COLD: Cold water is great for breathing, circulation and some research has shown it can reduce fat stores. Start warm then turn cold. Keep your breathing slow with extended exhales. By the time you get out, you won’t even notice how chilly it was.
9:00 EXPRESS GRATITUDE: Being thankful has been scientifically proven to make you feel happier. It doesn’t have to be anything important. I tell my dog I’m grateful for my amazing coffee! Even if life sucks, there are usually a few things we can find positivity in.
10:00 STRENGTHEN YOUR MUSCLES: One of the most important things we can do for wellness is to maintain our muscle tissue, which naturally declines with age. This in turn boosts the immune system. I recommend slow motion muscle movements such as push-ups. Do them slowly until you reach the point where you can’t do any more.
11:00 EAT BREAKFAST: Have breakfast at 11am and stop eating around eight hours later to give your body time to clean out waste products and rebuild proteins. If you eat constantly, the body spends all its time processing fuel and it never gets time to do the maintenance work. I do this four days a week — doing it more often can be bad for the gut.
12:00 LEARN SOMETHING NEW: Brain tissue also declines as you get older. You need to give it some complex tasks, and the best include learning a language or learning to play a musical instrument. You don’t need a drum kit to play drums, just drum sticks or wooden spoons will do.
13:00 GET OUTDOORS AGAIN: Go for a walk outdoors. Strolling in a natural environment triggers a relaxing response in the brain. Adding slopes and stairs into your route will also increase your heart rate, boosting health.
14:00 MAKE A LIST: Lists help to declutter our minds and reduce stress. Just writing one reduces the stress hormone cortisol. If you successfully tick a few things off, the feel-good reward chemical dopamine will be released in the brain. You feel a buzz.
15:00 DANCE IN THE KITCHEN: Many of us suffer the mid-afternoon slump and reach for a chocolate bar. Replace this with music. Put on some high-energy tunes, get up and move around. By the time the song is finished, you’ll feel energised again.
17:00 SOCIAL ISE: Try to spend time with positive people. If the people around you always see the glass as half empty, that negativity will affect you too.
18:00 THINK TECH: Tech is a great way to see if your health is improving. Try Fitbits or Apple watches that measure body temperature, sleep, activity, step count, resting heart rate etc. It’s cheaper than the gym.
18:30 EAT DINNER: Do this before 7pm to stick within the eight-hour window. If I drink alcohol, I’ll have it at least four hours before sleep. Alcohol interferes with the brain’s connections and can really mess up your sleep.
20:00 DIM THE LIGHTS: Use low-level table lamps and dimmers in the evening, and avoid screens. If you do use a screen at night wear blue-light- blocking glasses to stop the light emitted from your phone or laptop interfering with the biological circuit in the brain.
- ANY changes to diet or routine should be discussed with your GP if you have underlying health conditions that could be cause for concern. Neuron Smart Wellness Made Easy, by Dr Julia Jones PhD, is out now.
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