How to beat the three silent killers

Lack of sleep, stress and pro­longed sit­ting can have dire con­se­quences

Life & Style Weekend - - YOU -

ANY­ONE can lose weight even­tu­ally by eat­ing less and mov­ing more – but if you want faster, eas­ier re­sults, and you want that gut to stay gone, the smart thing to do is start pay­ing at­ten­tion to the 3 S’s: sleep, stress and sit­ting.

Twenty thou­sand years ago our hunter-gath­erer an­ces­tors slept more, stressed only when they re­ally needed to, and sat less, but now with all the de­mands of our busy lives the 3 S’s of­ten get ig­nored, to the detri­ment of our health and with dire con­se­quences for our waist­lines. In fact, how much we sleep, how much we stress, and how much time we spend sit­ting are just as im­por­tant as diet and ex­er­cise, and can make all the dif­fer­ence in blast­ing away fat and get­ting fit.

Our bod­ies are sat­u­rated with stress hor­mones, and pre­pare for dis­as­ter by hoard­ing en­ergy stores


When we are sleep-de­prived the hor­mones that con­trol our ap­petite are neg­a­tively af­fected – that’s why you find your­self rip­ping the door han­dle off the fridge half an hour after lunch. A re­cent study at the Mayo Clinic showed that on av­er­age peo­ple who got only two-thirds of a proper night’s sleep ate a whop­ping 549 ex­tra calo­ries the next day.

The other thing that hap­pens when we don’t get enough sleep is our brains crave high-fat and high-sugar foods. And on top of that, sleep de­pri­va­tion raises blood pres­sure and in­creases the risk of heart dis­ease and stroke. So if you don’t want to undo all your good work in eat­ing right and train­ing right, you need to make sure you sleep right, too.

You’ll find that as you lose weight you’ll also sleep bet­ter – stud­ies at Johns Hop­kins Univer­sity have shown that los­ing belly fat in par­tic­u­lar leads to much bet­ter sleep qual­ity. And as you sleep bet­ter your abil­ity to lose weight will im­prove. Win win!

To make sure you get a good night’s sleep:

Stop eat­ing and drink­ing at least an hour be­fore you go to bed.

Put away the smart­phone or com­puter, turn off the TV and read a book, or have a hot shower in the hour be­fore bed to help your body wind down and get ready for sleep.

Turn your room into the ul­ti­mate man cave: make sure your blinds block out any light, re­move any de­vices like phones, com­put­ers, TVs and alarm clocks and make sure the room isn’t too hot and that you don’t have too many lay­ers on, as this can dis­rupt your sleep, too.


Our bod­ies are bi­o­log­i­cally pro­gramed to put on weight when we’re stressed. When one of our an­ces­tors saw a sabre-toothed tiger on the hori­zon, an alarm would go off in his brain and his body would be flooded with the stress hor­mones adren­a­line and cor­ti­sol, pre­par­ing him for fight or flight (hope­fully flight in this case). The fight-or-flight mech­a­nism was vi­tal for sur­vival, but it was not con­stantly in use.

Nowa­days, how­ever, we are sur­rounded by daily stres­sors, and have ex­actly the same re­sponse, even if the threat is only an an­noy­ing email. The re­sult is that our bod­ies are sat­u­rated with stress hor­mones, in par­tic­u­lar cor­ti­sol, and pre­pare for dis­as­ter by hoard­ing en­ergy stores, aka fat.

To man­age your ev­ery­day stress lev­els so that your body is not con­stantly in fat-hoard­ing mode, try some of these strate­gies:

Don’t dwell on it – If some­thing is stress­ing you out and you can’t change it, ac­cept it and move on.

Get the blood pump­ing – Leave your stress be­hind by tak­ing a brisk walk to clear your head. Or, even bet­ter, high-in­ten­sity ex­er­cise is an awe­some in­stant stress rem­edy.

Catch up with your mates – Yes, sci­en­tists have proven that nights out with your mates are es­sen­tial for men’s health. A study of mon­keys with sim­i­lar so­cial be­hav­iour to hu­mans showed that male mon­keys were most re­laxed in all-male groups.

Live in the present – Take a break from stress by be­ing mind­ful of what you are do­ing in the mo­ment.


This silent killer now kills more peo­ple than smok­ing, and has been iden­ti­fied as an in­de­pen­dent risk fac­tor for de­vel­op­ing heart dis­ease and di­a­betes. No mat­ter how well you eat or how much you ex­er­cise, sit­ting for more than six hours a day can still undo your good work.

In most peo­ple, as soon as you sit down your me­tab­o­lism grinds to a near halt, burn­ing just one calo­rie a minute, the elec­tri­cal ac­tiv­ity in your leg mus­cles shuts down, and worse still, a key en­zyme in your body that helps break down fat in the blood is switched off. After two hours of sit­ting your good choles­terol lev­els can drop by 20%. This may ex­plain why peo­ple with desk jobs have twice the rate of car­dio­vas­cu­lar dis­ease. Not only does your me­tab­o­lism slow right down if you sit on your rear end for long pe­ri­ods of time, but the fat cells in the area can in­crease in size by as much as 50%.

Add to this the truth that sit­ting for hours can cause your in­sulin and blood sugar lev­els to spike dan­ger­ously, and you can see why it is such a ma­jor life­style risk fac­tor.

Try these tips to break up the time you spend sit­ting:

Aim to stand up ev­ery 30 min­utes and move around for five min­utes at a time.

If you’re watch­ing TV, use the ad breaks as train­ing time – pump out some moun­tain climbers be­fore the footy’s back on.

Move around while you’re on the phone – it’s called a mo­bile for a rea­son.

Build your own stand­ing desk.


Au­thor and busi­ness­man Adam MacDougall.

Ex­tract from The 10 Minute Man by Adam MacDougall, pub­lished by Vik­ing RRP $35.

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