Sunday Health Hack No. 26 – Rebound your Life (& Health)!

Sunday Health Hack No. 26 – Get a Rebounder (a small trampoline), put it in your (home) office, and have some fun in your work-breaks – to the benefit of your bodily and mental health.

Stick with me! When I stumbled across this, I had a sneer on my face too. That’s something we did when we were “little kids”, I first thought. But the smirk quickly vanished when I became aware that the study which I was reading was conducted by NASA, with the conclusion that “rebounding” has since the 80ies become an important part of their astronaut’s physical training regimen.
So there must be something to it.

As you can imagine, there are distinctive challenges associated with the loss of gravity, and these obstacles can affect astronauts even when they return back to earth. To combat health risks associated with space travel, NASA scientists heavily research effective ways of preparing and maintaining the bodies of their space crew.

This NASA academic paper “Body Acceleration Distribution and O2 Uptake in Humans During Running and Jumping” is not the easiest read, but it contains a wealth of information about the benefits of rebounding on a trampoline. It goes into detail about oxygen consumption and muscular involvement, and eventually concludes that bouncing provides better all-around benefits than running, isotonic (weight lifting) and isometric exercise.
The researchers concluded that “rebound exercise is the most efficient, effective form of exercise yet devised” and that 10 minutes of “bouncing” is a better cardiovascular workout than 30 minutes of running (and also burns much more calories).

Since then, trampoline exercise has been used by NASA astronauts to build bone density and muscle mass, improve balance, coordination, motor skills and cardio fitness. And it’s beneficial for the lymphatic system too (your detoxification system, helping your body to flush out toxins, bacteria, dead cells, and other waste products).
And aside from a better burn, rebounding is also a lower impact, high-intensity workout. The trampoline absorbs the shock so there’s less pressure on your joints, reducing your risk of soreness and injury.
So, not only for super-fit austronauts, but rebounding is also a perfect exercise for obese people to start exercising.
And as the body ages, the curvature on the spine increases. Rebounding has been shown to help maintain proper body alignment and a strong posture.

Extra tip for women: Cellulite is most often caused by a stagnant lymph system. By increasing the lymphatic flow in your body, rebounding can eradicate one of the main factors that lead to non-hereditary cellulite. And because of the increased blood flow and the involvement of every cell in your body when rebounding, already existing cellulite skin can get firm again.

Extra office tip: Rebounding improves the then oxygen-loaded blood circulation to the brain, which aids in proper brain function, focus and memory. Additionally rebounding helps to elevate your mood with the rush of feel-good hormones you get from this “fun, childish” exercising.
But rebounding also reduces common office desk related pains such as neck pains, back pains, and headaches.

So for many, many (health) reasons, my Sunday Health Hack for today is – Get a small rebounder, put it in your office or on your terrace (or wherever your space is you regularly visit or reside), but not in your cellar.
Small rebounders are inexpensive too, something around 50 Euro. And always get one with a handle for balance / safety reasons.
This is the one I use (no affiliation) –

And don’t make it too complicated. Just “bounce” for a couple of minutes, but many times a day.
Studies show that one can focus on an (office) issue for around 45-60min. So take regular short breaks during the day, and maybe while your coffee/tea is brewing, you rebound for 3-4min, before returning fully rejuvenated, focused and in a good mood to your desk again.
Another good time for rebounding is right in the morning. Studies have shown that, when rebounding a couple of minutes in the morning, you will much more likely make many & much healthier choices throughout the day.

And my final extra tip: After your morning or short break rebounding session, hang on to your pull-up bar for “recovery” (while getting your breath back), see my last Sunday Health Hack “Spine up & hang in there”, for stacking several health benefits without any effort.

And just in case you are still smirking – give it a try. In the first minute you are tempted to explore the “kid-fun” side by diving full in, bouncing up and down as high as you can. Towards the end of the first minute, suddenly your calf muscles start to burn and you think “Okay, maybe I should slow down a little bit”. After two minutes your breathing becomes heavier and sweat appears on your forehead, and you think “Damn, that felt much easier when I was a child”. After three minutes you are huffing and puffing, and you think “Jeez, who would have thought”. 😊

Up, up & away – Yours,  Andreas

Sunday Quote
You can’t always wait for the perfect time. Sometimes you must dare to jump.

Sunday Music
Adding some endorphin pushing tunes will make you endure the pain much easier. And please don’t try to “shuffle” on the rebounder though :-).

Sunday Health Hack No. 25 – Spine up & hang in there!

Sunday Health Hack No. 25 – Get a pull-up bar, but not for doing pull-ups, but just to hang on with your own body weight. Several times a day.

After a quick Pentecost break, we are back with our next Sunday Hack regarding your most important mission in life – To take utmost care of the “health” of your “spine”.

First and foremost, your spine is your body’s central support structure. The support of the spine is essential to various bodily movements and functions, such as standing and walking. Additionally, your spine allows for flexible movements, such as bending and twisting.
Another function of the spine is that it protects the delicate spinal cord from potential damage. Your spinal cord carries the nerve signals from your brain to your body and vice versa. These nerve signals help you feel sensations and move your body. The spinal cord helps the body and internal organs function properly. Any damage to your spinal cord can negatively affect your movement or bodily functions like even breathing and using the bathroom. Blood pressure, body temperature and heart rate are also regulated and controlled by the spinal cord and brain.

Many people may only notice or pay attention to the spine unless there is an issue or pain (or worse), but a healthy spine is a key aspect of leading a healthy and “self-confident” life!

The spine is composed of 33 bones, called vertebrae, divided into five sections: the main, “flexible” cervical (neck), thoracic (upper back/chest), and lumbar (lower back) spine sections, and the fixed sacrum (pelvic) and coccyx bones (tailbone).
Between the individual vertebrae in the cervical, thoracic, and lumbar regions (not in the sacrum and coccyx) are oval shaped pads made of fibrocartilage called intervertebral discs. The intervertebral disc helps absorb the shock and stress the body may experience during movement while preventing the vertebrae from grinding against one another.
The discs have a tough outer covering of cartilage that provides support and a soft, jellylike center that provides the cushioning (the nucleus pulposus).
They provide cushioning for the vertebrae and reduce the stress caused by impact. By keeping the vertebrae separated from each other, they act as a type of shock absorber for the spine. They help protect the nerves that run down the spine and between the vertebrae. And they increase the flexibility of the spine and allow us to bend over at the waist without rubbing the vertebrae into each other.

But, we “office warriors” now face several challenges. “Sitting” in an office chair actually puts these sensitive intervertebral discs under constant pressure. The whole head, shoulder, arms, back, and chest weight is resting on them, for hours and hours.
On average, we are 2-3cm shorter in the evening. Primarily because of the constant compression of our spine that take place throughout the day. During the night, when there is no load placed on your spine, fluid is slowly diffusing into the discs again.
So no wonder that most “disc locations” also do happen in the evening.

Another problem is that the only way to protect our spine are strong muscles, especially the core muscles (abs and lower back). Only strong muscles can absorb most of the (compression) “force” put on your spine, protect you against dislocated disc (and back pain), and prevent early “degeneration” processes.

But there is a trick, without now having to hit the gym every day, how to strengthen your “spine” (and the muscles involved) without much “effort”.
My Sunday Health Hack for today – Get a pull-up bar, but not for doing pull-ups, but just to hang on with your own body weight. Several times a day. Just a couple of “moments”.
And don’t get too scientific about it. This can be a simple pull-up bar which you place in your doorframe.
And the best locations are either your kitchen door or your bathroom door, because you visit these rooms several times a day. And eg. while you are waiting for your tea water to boil, you hang on at the pull-up bar. Easy, right?!

Again, especially if you are untrained, don’t even bother to try making some pull-ups. Because pretty quick you will realize that just hanging from that pull-up bar is far not as “easy” as it sounds.
First, your grip strength will give away (under your body weight). Then the muscles in your forearms. Then your biceps and triceps. Then your shoulders and neck. Then your back and chest. Then your lower back and abs.
On a positive note, and that’s the goal, in small, incremental steps, you will gradually strengthen all these muscles, which most of them are important for protecting your spine, just by hanging from a pull-up bar with your body weight.
Additionally, you also “decompress” your intervertebral discs while hanging. “Fluid” enters the clenched “gel cushions” again. You will even “feel” that you (your spine) will be much more flexible again after this “treatment”.
With this goes along an improved functioning of the “electric signals” and communication between the body and the brain, which even has a positive influence on your breathing pattern (oxygen for your brain) etc..
Last but not least, your body posture will improve significantly too, for not only standing up straight, but also to the benefit of your internal organs, eg. lung capacity etc..
And at your next business meeting, you also greet your guests and colleagues with a strong, confident handshake thanks to your increased grip-strength.

Interesting sidenote: There are many studies out there which prove the direct link between your body posture and your “mood”. If you want to feel “depressed” just slump over, pull in your shoulders, drop your head to your chest – you will immediately “feel” how “bad thoughts” start to creep into your mind.
But it works the other way around too. Scientists had clinically depressed patients talking brief but regular walks during the day with a straight spine, with shoulders back, with the head up (picturing to move the “clouds” with their head), taking deep breaths from the core, opening the chest.
The scientists measured the endorphins of these patients after a couple of days, which were sort of non-existent before, and the numbers had gone through the roof. Besides the overwhelming subjective statements of the patients how much better they “felt”. So, now imagine what this little posture-supporting exercise can do for you! Your mood. Your self-confidence.

Extra hack: I know, I said, no pull-ups. But how about you start to slowly turn your upper body left and right after a while, when your grip and forearm strength has improved. This will additionally strengthen your shoulder, neck and upper body muscles. Next you lean a bit forward and then backwards (for engaging your upper chest and back muscles). Eventually you “employ” your legs. Slowly moving them left to right which will have a positive effect on your core muscles. And then you even start to pull up your knees towards your chest. Not all the way immediately. Again, “slow movements” is the magic, “healthy” word here.

Stay straight and hang on, Yours  Andreas

Sunday Quote
Unfortunately, some people develop a wishbone where their backbone should be.

Sunday Music
Okay, if you have to hang in there, before you get bored, at least let’s get some (spine) “Twist” mood and adrenaline rushing too –

Sunday Health Hack No. 24 – Lavender in the air, and on your skin!

Sunday Health Hack No. 24 – Get some organic Lavender essential oil and make lavendish use of it in you evening and bedtime routine.

I have mentioned essential oils before now and then, but there are some which deserve a special mentioning. And Lavender is a MUST in your healthy lifestyle aid-kit!

Traditional herbal textbooks and research studies alike confirm Lavender as a health jack-of-all-trades. Lavender calms the nervous system, it lifts the mood and even lower blood pressure. Research links Lavender usage to less anxiety and depression. It improves your body’s melatonin levels, supporting a better night’s rest. It gently moisturizes and detoxifies your skin. It soothes dry skin conditions. It prevents and mends painful acne breakouts and eczema. It heals the skin that’s irritated by insect bites or reddened from the sun. And its antioxidants battle environmental stressors like UV rays and pollution as well as signs of premature aging, protect against wrinkles, fine lines, and dark age spots. 
So, Lavender is much more than just grandma’s secret weapon for freshening up the powder room.

This legendary violet botanical belongs to the mint family, and it is not only a pretty plant but has a long history as a beauty and medical treatment.
Lavender is one of the world’s most ancient documented plants. Hieroglyphic texts from the Egyptians detail the use of Lavender in embalming, as cosmetics and as medicine.
And even the Bible mentions Lavender several times. The Lavender plant was said to be taken from the Garden of Eden by Adam and Eve, the Virgin Mary laid the infant Jesus’ clothes onto a Lavender bush to dry that the scent was bestowed upon the plant, Mary massaged the bruised feet of Jesus after his long walk through the desert with an Lavender ointment, and she anointed Jesus with Lavender after the crucifixion when she was preparing him for burial.
The early Greeks learned a lot about Lavender and the use of aromatic herbs from the Egyptians, using Lavender oil to clean wounds, heal burns, prevent further infections, and treat many other skin injuries.
The Romans adopted the knowledge from the Greeks and used Lavender flower lavishly in their public baths, to perfume themselves and their homes.
During the Renaissance, it was used to protect against the Plaque, due to its insect repellent properties (the Plague was carried by lices on the rats).
English royalty were particularly fond of Lavender during the Victorian Era. Queen Victoria even appointed an official purveyor, her name was Miss Sarah Sprules “Purveyor to the Queen”, and Lavender was used throughout the castles for everything imaginable.
And during the First World War, before antibiotics and penicillin were invented, Lavender was used by the doctors and nurses as the main antiseptic for its strong antimicrobial and antiviral properties.

Sidenote: Essential oils are compounds extracted from plants. The oils capture the plant’s scent and flavour, or “essence.” Essential oils are obtained through distillation (via steam and/or water) or mechanical methods, such as cold pressing. Once the aromatic chemicals have been extracted, they are combined with a “carrier” (oil or water).

So, my Sunday Health Hack of today is making use of Lavender’s powerful health benefits with these easy to implement routines –
First, get some good organic Lavender essential oil in your local health store. Next, invest a little bit of money for a small “diffuser”. I use this one, which is easy to handle, and which I also like to give as a nice present to family & friends (no advertisement!) –
Now, before you go to bed, depending on the layout of your home, either set up the diffuser in your bedroom or your “reading” room. Mix 100ml of water with 10 drops of Lavender essential oil, and put this mixture into the diffuser. As mentioned above, the Lavender smell will have a potent calming effect on your nervous system (after a hell-of-an-office-day), granting you a rejuvenating good-night-sleep.
Additionally, mix again 100ml of water with 10 drops of Lavender essential oil, and put this mixture into a spray bottle. Now spray your bed and especially your pillow with this blend, for even excel the good-night-sleep benefits.

I rather shower in the evening, for getting the day-battle-dust off me before I go to bed. And as a body lotion I use Aloe Vera gel and mix it with a couple of drops of Lavender essential oil. In combination with Tea Tree & Lemon essential oil as a specific (arm-pit) deodorant (see Sunday Health Hack No. 16), and Rosemary essential oil for my hair (see Sunday Health Hack No. 17).
And if I don’t have the time for a shower, at least I put some Aloe Vera and Lavender mix on my neck and face, after I cleaned it with some Lavender (organic) soap.

Extra tip for parents: As mentioned above, already Virgin Mary used Lavender for anointing baby Jesus’s clothes. Very much for a good reason though. The still “unfiltered” senses of babies are even more receptive to the calming and anti-anxiety effects of the Lavender scent. So, next time your new-born keeps you up all night, maybe you should give it a serious try before anything else!  

Peace & plants, Yours  Andreas

Sunday Quote
Forgiveness is the fragrance the violet sheds on the heel that has crushed it.
Mark Twain

Sunday Music
Well, speaking of calmness and soothing your nervous system in the evening before you go to bed –