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So here’s a challenge for you: can you reset your normal state from sitting to moving?


Particularly in the last one to two hundred years, we have tended to treat sitting down as the baseline state for our bodies, without really questioning it. As our minds dominate our attention, we tend to prefer to sit in order to focus on cognitive activities such as reading, writing, or using screens. This tendency has accelerated in recent years as we focus more on handheld devices or computers, both for work and leisure.


What if you turn that assumption upside down? What if, instead of sitting for the majority of your waking hours, you switch to moving for this time? What if you bring your body back into your attention as well as your mind?


Here’s the challenge: to move for 12 hours in 24. It sounds excessive, compulsive and impossible, but it is achievable!


The first big change you might need is a standing desk. Friends and colleagues  eye roll when they hear me wax lyrical about the joys of standing up to work at a screen or take telephone calls, but I cannot underestimate how different I feel in the two years so far that I have changed to this type of desk. It is a foundation stone for being able to be more active at other times of the day as well, because rather than feeling more tired, your body feels readier and more energised to take on other types of activity. Your concentration improves, your back feels straighter and more relaxed, and your neck and head feel free.





So here’s an example of how your working day might go:


  • Wake up and step outside to watch the morning sky

  • Yoga stretches and mindfulness meditation

  • Sit for breakfast (SITTING 30 minutes)

  • Sit to commute to work (SITTING 30 minutes)

  • Stand at desk at work, gentle movements, steps, paces with Bluetooth headset when not actively needing to look at the screen

  • Walk or run or cycle outdoors in your lunch break

  • Sit to eat lunch (SITTING 30 minutes)

  • Return to stand at desk for work

  • Sit to commute back home (SITTING 30 minutes)

  • Sit to eat dinner (SITTING 30 minutes)

  • Wash up and other domestic tasks

  • Gentle walk after dinner

  • Sit to relax infront of a book or the TV (SITTING 60 minutes)

  • Sleep 7-8 hours


Note I have highlighted any SITTING time as the exception, amounting to 3 hours 30 minutes across the whole waking day (which typically lasts 16-17 hours.)  This means that the rest of the time, you are standing, gently moving or exercising for 16 minus 3.5, equalling 12.5 hours.


What sounds like an impossible proportion of time moving can be broken down in this way to a manageable level.  


Thinking, reading, conducting meetings or conversations, or driving creativity while standing or gently moving increases your concentration especially through the previous mid-morning or  mid-afternoon slump of a sedentary day. What you had assumed to be normal levels of tiredness or distraction are transformed into productivity and focus because the body is more aligned with itself and able to support the mind to do its job better as a result. Moving becomes the new normal. Your energy levels, supported by good nutritional and fluid intake, as well as better sleep because of this level of activity, improve day on day.

 

 

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Intention and Effort

Walking in soft sand can be tough, but look at the reward of the beauty all around you











I want to focus on these two useful aspects of conscious awareness which are important footholds for behaviour change and activation: intention and effort. They are particularly worth focusing on because in our world of distraction and multi-tasking, they aren’t immediately accessible. We are naturally predisposed to following the most rapidly amenable distraction because of our brain’s tendency to attend to new stimuli, prioritised over established ones. Becoming aware of intention and effort, we can nurture our motivation to establish and sustain healthy changes in our lives.

 


The first step is allowing yourself the time and space to determine your intention. This involves reflecting on your core values and the goals that arise out of them, identifying discrepancies between your current reality and your aspirations. Then you can articulate your intention to move from one to the other being as clear and specific as you can, even visualising what it would take to complete this journey. Intention is reaching into our core selves, our heart and soul, brushing past the external influences or distractions, including our fears and under-confidence, to set ourselves a clear and authentic goal, with the commitment to achieve it.

 

 

Next you need to prepare for the effort required to set off on that journey. Again, you can prepare yourself for what it will feel like and visualise what your physical, cognitive and emotional state will be like as you set off. Effort can appear old-fashioned in our leisure focused society, the emphasis on hardship over comfort, tolerating pain rather than averting it. But the modern idea of convenience and leisure is deconditioning us and setting expectations too loosely for a life that remains essentially challenging. So the process of expecting effort and preparing yourself for it is helpful in resetting those expectations and bracing yourself for them.

 

 

 

Intention is being specific about the direction, while effort is the insistence to carry on the path through the mud and rocky terrain, the ascents, and the diversions, to reach the goal. Putting intention into action with this insistence gives rise to the essential confidence which proves your capability to yourself and others that encourages you onwards. 


 

When living in this aligned way, it is heartening to realise that the effort becomes effortless. Once you have chosen your goal as an expression of your values, you have no other choice but to keep pushing on towards it. You rise above yourself where effort and intention merge, and you become one with your core values and aspirations.

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A recent meta-analysis, in October 2023, found that higher flavonoid intake was associated with a 17% lower risk of cognitive impairment and dementia. Mild cognitive impairment is the mild decline in memory and functioning that can often be seen several years before any dementia diagnosis.


This meta analysis looked at 13 observational studies (cohort and cross sectional) , and a further systematic review looked at a total of 27 studies. It looked at the general population aged 47-81.


Notably the flavonoids Anthocyanins and Flavones were found to confer the greatest reduction in risk (27 and 23% respectively). But in which foods do we find these and how can we include them in our diet?


Anthocyanins are most commonly quoted as found in blueberries. But it is important to remember that blackcurrants, Açai berries and pomegranates (fresh, rather than juice) are also particularly concentrated sources.


Flavones are particularly concentrated in chamomile, a great reason to get drinking the chamomile tea! In addition there are a number of herbs containing high levels: Oregano, Mint, Parsley, Rosemary and Shiso top the list, so even a small sprinkle of these to dishes can make an impact. Shiso is an aromatic leaf, related to the mint and basil family. Traditionally used in Japanese dishes, it can be easily grown in the summer months in the UK from seed and sprinkled into salads. It is also known as perilla leaf in English.


This study also showed a dose response relationship; the higher the intake of flavanoids the better- up to 250mg/day, which is quite difficult to achieve!


The drawbacks of this analysis include the common problem with many nutritional studies- that the flavonoid intake was estimated by dietary questionnaires, and some of the studies included did not adjust for confounders. In addition the studies that looked at cognitive impairment and dementia were not separated.



Dietary (Poly)phenols and Cognitive Decline: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of Observational Studies

Justyna Godos et al. Mol Nutr Food Res. 2024 Jan.




Andrew Fisher

May 2024





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