Meet Mark

Let me introduce myself. My name is Mark Sisson. I’m 63 years young. I live and work in Malibu, California. In a past life I was a professional marathoner and triathlete. Now my life goal is to help 100 million people get healthy. I started this blog in 2006 to empower people to take full responsibility for their own health and enjoyment of life by investigating, discussing, and critically rethinking everything we’ve assumed to be true about health and wellness...

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Category: Fitness

The Real Reason We Don’t Exercise

Are you sick of hearing the same old lectures about the need to exercise? Tired of reading list after list of reasons why you really should work out? So over sifting through tip upon tip suggesting how to motivate yourself? The nation’s collective “Move Thy Buns!” shout has been getting consistently noisier for a few decades now, and yet, despite all our best efforts, desire, and intentions, most people just don’t exercise enough. If at all. End of story. Strange, because we know exercise is not only great, but actually necessary. I don’t believe there’s a single person alive right now who doesn’t know that exercise will help them lose weight, or live longer, or reduce stress, or just feel better. Whether you’re a gym rat, or are simply maintaining a decent standard of fitness, or are a regulation couch potato, I’d like to offer a thought as to why exercise, for the most part, just won’t stick. The reason is because the baby boomer generation is the first generation to learn about the need for exercise. Our parents didn’t exercise. Sure, there were the Saturday rounds on the links for Dad and Mom played tennis with the ladies at the country club from time to time. Or there was the occasional evening constitutional or family camping trip. But exercise as a way of life? A daily habit? A necessity? It just wasn’t in people’s consciousness. Take a look at old male and female movie stars whose bodies were adored in their time – John Wayne didn’t have a six-pack. Miss Monroe had plenty of curvaceous heft. The silhouette was enough – nobody was sculpting, toning and defining back then. Sports were for fun, walks were for digestion, and activity was for stress relief, but the thought of daily exercise? Unheard of. It makes sense to me. Our parents’ generation was really the first to be fully “modern” – ladies keeping house in middle-class suburbia and office-going gentlemen in the ubiquitous gray flannel suits. These are huge generalities, of course, but I think they’re largely true. It wasn’t uncommon at all for our parents to have been raised on a farm – until the 1930s, most families were still connected to agriculture or heavy labor in some way. But our parents weren’t farmers, and even a blue collar union job at GM was fairly mechanized. We simply weren’t raised to be active. So, the Boomers are the product of at least one generation that didn’t work out. It’s taken us a few generations to realize that the hard labor Gramps put in on the family farm was probably really good for him. We don’t live that way anymore, so yes, we do need the gyms and fitness videos and exercise gear. And change is hard. Really hard. I’m obviously a huge proponent of exercise. I work out 5 or 6 times a week and many of you know that I’m a retired athlete. I think everyone ought to work out … Continue reading “The Real Reason We Don’t Exercise”

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10 Easy Steps to Good Health

The Tuesday 10 It’s easy to get lost in the details – organic or local? wild or farmed? fresh or frozen? – and to me it seems like the majority of health news out there is just obsessing over the minutiae. No wonder we give up and go back to our old habits. The little things can matter, but on balance, it’s the consistent application of a few simple lifestyle changes that count. Make a few very basic – but significant – healthy changes, and the little things tend to take care of themselves. Or no longer matter so much. Here are ten simple steps to better health that you can implement, starting right now: 10. No More Rules First things first: no more worrying about the so-called Holy Grails of Health. Here’s what I’m talking about: Water. Coffee. Breakfast. Sleep. Following the pyramid. Fat. Sunlight. These supposed hard-and-fast rules of health cause more stress than the actual things. How about trusting your body enough to know what’s right for you? You’re up for the challenge, I guarantee it. 9. 90/10 or 10/90? A lot of us focus on rules, numbers or specific amounts in an attempt to lose weight and feel healthier. We vow to eat a certain number of calories, for example. Even Uncle Sam falls for the magic of numbers (the failed 5-a-day vegetable campaign that is now being retired). But getting healthy is about being healthy. 90% of your regular habits and 10% of healthy habits added to that is just not a recipe for health. It’s got to be the other way around. 8. Eat something green at every meal. Pretty easy! It should be at least half of the portion size, plate, cup… 7. Absolutely cut out the sodas and sugary drinks. Yup, they have to go. 6. Don’t eat anything that comes in a box, bag or package. I’m not talking about a bag of frozen broccoli or a jar of almonds. I’m talking about processed, packaged, preserved foods. This is a big commitment. It is tough. But there is just no way you can be as healthy and fit as you want if you don’t stick to this most of the time. You can cheat (we all do). But keep that 90% in mind. Keep it fresh. 5. Eat meat that isn’t so processed. Vegetarians don’t have to worry about this too much (unless you’re eating lots of processed mock meats). Fresh, clean, lean chicken and fish is going to do wonders for your health in the long run – you’ll help prevent cancer, high blood pressure and heart disease. Sausage, bacon, deli meat, processed meats, on the other hand? Carcinogen special. 4. Eat a salad – every day. So, I’m a little obsessed with my daily salad. But it’s such a no-brainer! You can even enjoy some goodies on it (nuts, a little cheese, dressing). Who said humans were meant for burritos and sandwiches? 3. Fight stress. Whether it’s with a … Continue reading “10 Easy Steps to Good Health”

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Mat Magic

Introducing a new feature at Mark’s Daily Apple: Sara Shops (it’s a tough task, but she’s up for the challenge.) I recently took to yoga and have had quite a bit of fun (make that hip pain) finding the ideal mat. I’ll spare you the pain and eyebrow-raising I endured by sharing my newfound knowledge of rubber rugs with you. In case you’ve never tried yoga, or think it’s for hippies or Madonna, I highly recommend it. Not only will you glow like a little glowworm, you’ll feel relaxed and loose. Bonus: you’ll lose a few pounds around your middle after just a few sessions (yoga really does massage your organs and flush toxins). It can be pricey, but I’ve managed to find a few spots that offer great package deals, and I even learned about a group that gets together for free – and apparently, this goes on all over the place. Cool! There are many different types of yoga, of course. Personally, I’m loving good old hatha for increasing my flexibility and sense of relaxation. Although, the two hours being pushed and prodded in iyengar by a very serious husband-and-wife team – easily in their 70s – was more entertaining than anything the Wilson brothers have come up with lately. He was good cop, she was bad cop (I’ve never been so intimidated by someone who weighed, at most, 85 pounds soaking wet). On to the mat. Not knowing if I would want to stick with yoga, I chose the cheapest mat available. Not a move I’d suggest following (unless you want to put up with some smirks and a lot of pain). After the first session, I knew that I would definitely want to stick with yoga. Unfortunately, I also stuck to my new mat. Though it only cost about $15, the lightweight, all-synthetic foam was far too thin (only about 1/8″) and not nearly squishy enough. Being so thin (the mat), all my joints ached like the dickens the next day. So, I upgraded to a vinyl sponge mat for $25. This one was a little more generously proportioned (72″ instead of 68″) and is the standard mat most folks go with. It’s still just 1/8″, but it’s squishy, waterproof, and closed-cell non-Latex (this just means it’s better for you because it won’t harbor bacteria). It also has a nice meshy grid that helps you grip. However, after a few weeks with this guy, I was seriously hurting. Maybe my joints are a little too princess-and-the-pea, but I decided to see what else was available. I began really investigating the world of yoga mats. All yoga mats break down with use, which actually tends to make them more comfortable (sort of like shoes). And there is a mat for everyone: there are breast cancer mats (a mat for every cause), organic mats made of jute and bamboo (ego-friendly!), temperature-sensitive mats, travel mats, microfiber mats. There are probably even mats that read your mind (ok, maybe not). … Continue reading “Mat Magic”

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Feel Great Right Now

5 easy tips to feel healthier now:

1. Each morning, drink a tall glass of water with a few squeezes of fresh lemon juice. You’ll feel noticeably less “puffy” within two days. (Warning: if you also drink a morning jolt of java, the acidity may get to be too much, so eat a little breakfast and consider skipping coffee.)

2. Stop what you’re doing and take ten deep breaths. Concentrate on drawing the breath up from your kidneys; visualize pushing it down into your stomach as you exhale. Feels great.

3. Don’t get overwhelmed – think in terms of “relative nutrition”. This is my term for putting health information in perspective. Getting healthier can seem overwhelming, especially if you’re just starting out or are recovering from an illness. Yes, hitting the gym, meditating, and eating organic, raw, pure food all day long and tossing out the microwave would probably be ideal (in some universe). Instead, think in terms of healthy as it relates to your current habits.

I suggest that you concentrate on taking 4 or 5 steps and applying them consistently. You can change and add more healthy habits as you progress, but even a handful of simple modifications can do a lot of relative good. I’m not advocating a “make half your grains whole” approach like the Food Pyramid – that’s irresponsible public health guidance when we know that refined grains are so unhealthy. But, don’t expect immediate perfection of yourself – it’s unrealistic.

The important thing is to work gradually towards that paradigm shift (moving from merely accenting with healthy foods or behaviors to practicing health as a lifestyle – the “cheats” become the accent, as they should). You’ll get a lot of healthy mileage out of just a few basic changes: for example, tossing the sodas, switching to salads for lunch every day, and making a point of going on a walk after dinner each night will improve your mood, help you drop a few pounds in just two weeks, and help you sleep better. Who wouldn’t love all that?

4. Toss the sodas! (And the sugary lattes, “juice” drinks, and milk shakes…) Don’t drink your calories. Craving a sweet beverage? You may simply be dehydrated.

5. When you dine out this week – as most of us do at least 30% of the time – just say no to the starchy sides and bread basket. Ask for vegetables as a substitute. You’ll cut hundreds of calories, lower your blood sugar, and actually be less hungry later on.

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[tags]water, relative nutrition, whole grains, food pyramid, sodas, cravings[/tags]

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Hard Core

Core strength – everyone is talking about it. Core is just a buzz word for your midsection, and it’s very important to maximize your core health. A healthy, strong core is the “core” of good health.

A few key steps:

– You must shed that spare tire to naturally improve core health (cut out that sugar, folks).

– Get both resistance and aerobic activity several times a week.

– Do one or two torso-focused exercise sessions a week. The midsection doesn’t need much time: 10 or 15 minutes is enough.

– Maintain good posture.

– Implement some stretching and balance exercises into your workouts.

Trainer Russ Suchala and I were discussing this “core” topic the other day – here’s why you must take care of your core if you want good health:

“Training your core will result in tremendous benefits in a relatively short amount of time. This is because a strong core improves your posture, decreases your chance of injury, increases your power and functionality, and gives you a great-looking lean midsection.

Core training is rapidly gaining popularity for one specific reason: sitting leads to a weak core. Sitting? Yep, sitting.

Think about your typical work day. If you are like most people then your day starts with a 30-60 minute drive to work, followed by 8 hours at your desk and then another 30-60 minute drive home. That’s a lot of sitting. And it all adds up to one thing: a weak core.

The muscles that make up the core play a unique role since they provide stabilization for your entire body.

Core training seeks to strengthen the muscles of your abdominal and lower back using coordinated movement. A strong focus is put on contracting your abdominal muscles by pulling your belly button in toward your spine throughout the exercises to ensure that your core muscles are engaged.

Unfortunately many ailments stem from having weak core muscles. You may be personally acquainted with the most common ailment…lower back pain. Other problems include poor posture, being injury prone, having minimal strength and (drum roll please) a bulging waistline.

Alleviating persistent back pain is one of the most welcomed benefits of a strong core. An increase in strength and protection from injury are also nice, and who doesn’t love to lose inches from their waist as a result of tightened muscle?

Everyday motions such as lifting, squatting, reaching, twisting and bending will become less challenging after strengthening your core. While you may not immediately see the value in this, remember that it is better to be safe than sorry – who really wants to throw out their back while taking out the trash?”

Thanks, Russ. Apples, stick around for more fitness tips in future posts. It doesn’t take much to improve your health and physique – just commitment to action. As I always say, putting on the sneakers is 90% of the battle.

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[tags]core strength, aerobic, posture, exercise, Russ Suchala, training, back pain[/tags]

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The Secret to Great Abs

Admit it: half the reason we all watch Lost is because the main characters are just so great looking. They all have those ripped abs and defined arms that every guy and gal wants. Guess what? It’s not as tough as you’d think to look like Kate or the Doc (oops…lest I start yet another “which guy for Kate” debate, Sawyer, too). The big myth about getting a sleek, jelly-free belly is that you have to do endless stomach exercises. Hence the never-ending procession of rollers, riders, crunchers and other fitness gimmicks that never give you the washboard you want. You cannot roll, twist, or squeeze your way to a sexy stomach, no matter what the infomercials tell you. Here’s why: you already have abs! They might not be as developed as the dude on the cover of Men’s Health, but you already have abs. The problem is that fat is covering them up. Get rid of the fat, and your abs will show up just fine. Believe me, they are there. Doing stomach exercises is important for further developing those muscles and building core strength (more on that in a moment), but the best thing you can do as far as your torso is concerned – not only for improving confidence, your looks, and your comfort with your body, but your health – is to shed fat. Midsection fat is the most harmful kind of fat to your health and is a critical indicator of stress. Flex your stomach – even if you’re a couch potato, there’s a little muscle there. Now, if you are flexing and you can still grab abdominal fat in your hand, that’s exactly how much is surrounding your precious internal organs – and that’s a dangerous thing. Fat on your backside? Not so much. So by all means, crunch away – but your middle will actually get bigger if you don’t simultaneously shrink the fat. Spot toning without overall fat reduction is the wrong approach to getting flat abs, but it’s what most people do. (And notice, nothing changes much, and we all have to suffer through yet another magic abs infomercial with way too much spandex.) I’m a big proponent of taking care of your torso, not so you can look like a Lost extra (though that’s not a bad thing), but because a healthy middle means reduced chances of obesity (duh), diabetes, heart disease, hypertension and sleep problems. I’ll be bringing you tips on cutting fat in upcoming posts, but here’s a quick suggestion: cut out all refined carbs, sugar and alcohol for two weeks. I guarantee you’ll see a major reduction in bloat and midsection fat. Although excess calories are what adds the poundage, sugar is the culprit that goes right to the gut. It’s incredibly difficult to have a spare tire if you are primarily getting your calories from protein and produce. Be sure to check in tomorrow when I’ll be posting a discussion I recently had with Russ Suchala, … Continue reading “The Secret to Great Abs”

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