27 January 2016

Tom Brady's Diet: Explained

One of the most daunting tasks to take on when trying to improve your health is mining through all of the information surrounding nutrition. The idea of “eating right” seems simple, but for many, when making deliberate efforts to lose weight, prevent or reduce the onset of illness, and/or improve general health and vitality, working out what exactly is a healthy diet can unfortunately be more confusing that it should be. Many grew up with the USDA Dietary Guidelines so have a default affinity for a balanced diet built heavily on complex carbohydrates, grains and avoiding all fat to stave off heart disease. As common as these principles are - plenty of fruits, rice, cereals, skim milk and margarine, and as little fat as possible - it’s thankfully becoming more heavily publicised that these platforms not only aren’t the way to optimal health, but actually have contributed heavily to the heart, brain and weight epidemics that are plaguing the modern health care across the developed world. Here is an earlier piece I wrote about why these “balanced diet” USDA Guidelines are wrong.


Interestingly, there was a recent bridge formed between health and sporting news in America. Boston.com published an interview with Allen Campbell, the personal chef of New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady who is arguably the US’ most successful professional athlete of the last 20 years. For those that don’t follow (American) football, “Tom Terrific” has lead the Patriots to winning 4 NFL Superbowls with the first being in 2002, the most recent being last year, and almost made it to a 5th this year.


His status of a successful, high performing professional athlete may make the insights of his personal chef is of value for obvious reasons -- he’s incredibly fit and healthy. However, the longevity of his career and the fact that he’s maintained a spot at the pinnacle of his field for 14 years and counting in a sport where the average career length for the best players is 11 years, and for average players closer to 6 is especially intriguing. In other words, not only is Tom Brady incredibly fit and healthy, but he’s been able to maintain it and perform at peak levels for much longer than any of his peers. It is this “longevity” approach that deserves more discussion from someone who holds “healthy forever” as his mantra. This is Tom Brady’s diet, explained.


While it would’ve been very interesting to have a detailed menu or meal plan to unpack, Brady’s nutrition was discussed as part of a more holistic interview rather than a concise publication. Here are some of the best quotes from Brady’s personal chef, Allen Campbell courtesy of Boston.com.

What Tom Brady eats
“So, 80 percent of what they eat is vegetables. [I buy] the freshest vegetables. If it’s not organic, I don’t use it. And whole grains: brown rice, quinoa, millet, beans. The other 20 percent is lean meats: grass-fed organic steak, duck every now and then, and chicken. As for fish, I mostly cook wild salmon.

It’s very different than a traditional American diet. But if you just eat sugar and carbs—which a lot of people do—your body is so acidic, and that causes disease. Tom recently outed Frosted Flakes and Coca-Cola on WEEI. I love that he did that. Sugar is the death of people.”

What Tom Brady doesn’t eat
“No white sugar. No white flour. No MSG. I’ll use raw olive oil, but I never cook with olive oil. I only cook with coconut oil. Fats like canola oil turn into trans fats. ... I use Himalayan pink salt as the sodium. I never use iodized salt.

[Tom] doesn’t eat nightshades, because they’re not anti-inflammatory. So no tomatoes, peppers, mushrooms, or eggplants. Tomatoes trickle in every now and then, but just maybe once a month. I’m very cautious about tomatoes. They cause inflammation.

What else? No coffee. No caffeine. No fungus. No dairy. The kids eat fruit. Tom, not so much. He will eat bananas in a smoothie. But otherwise, he prefers not to eat fruits.”

The family (Tom and his wife Gisele have 3 kids)
“Yeah, I mean pretty much. Vivi was only nine months when I started, so I gave her first food. And 90 percent of the time they all eat the same thing. I cook for the kids, but Gisele makes Benny’s lunch to take to school. She packs that herself.
Yesterday I made veggie sushi for the kids. I’ve been doing that a lot lately. It’s brown rice, avocado, carrot, and cucumber. The kids like [it] maki-style, so the rice is on the outside. And I do it with a ponzu sauce, which is uzu and tamari. [I use] tamari because we stick to gluten free for everything.

For snacks, I make fruit rolls from bananas, pineapple, and spirulina. Spirulina is an algae. It’s a super fruit. I dehydrate it. I dehydrate a lot of things. I have three dehydrators in their kitchen. I also make raw granola and raw chocolate chip cookies.”

Key takeaways
The rest of the interview touches on preparation for games, shopping habits and example meals, so it’s a definitely a great read with a lot of fantastic insight on how elite athletes are able to nurture their body for optimal health. Again, the rest can be found on Boston.com. While glimpses into others’ lives and what works for them is no doubt, fascinating, it can’t be ignored that Brady is one of the world’s most notable professional athletes and, combined with his supermodel wife, has a lifestyle and means that most of us cannot afford. As a result, it’s best to take a lot of the practices with a grain of salt and instead focus on the principles with which to cater your own habits. These are the basics:

  • 80 percent vegetables - freshest possible, all organic
  • whole grains: brown rice, quinoa, millet and beans
  • lean meats, grass fed steaks, fowl, wild fish
  • Very different from traditional american diet - no sugar, limited carbs
  • Frosted Flakes and Coke...sugary processed foods are the death of people
  • plant-based diet has the power to reverse and prevent disease
  • no sugar, white flour or iodized salt
  • no oils other than olive and coconut
  • no caffeine
  • no dairy


Our household aligns quite closely with this. We’re not the type to quantify things, but honest conscious thought has us very confident that out of what we eat, a very strong majority is fresh vegetables. We go organic when we can, but not all the time as our budget, time, and retail options sometimes make it tough to manage comfortably. However, we definitely make sure that fresh, local and colourful veg -- lettuces, carrots, broccoli, peppers, brussel sprouts, spinach, kale, zucchini, and everything else in that section of the market -- goes in and out of our fridge the most. Colour vegetables, especially greens are the most important. No one disputes this.

Meats come in at second priority rather than any grains, whole or otherwise, so this is another deviation from the Brady’s. Adding to this difference is our acceptance of the role of animal fats, including saturated fat in brain health and long-term energy supply. We buy into much of the research supporting healthy animal fat in beef, fowl and fish as an essential component in neurological development and being highly positive influences in preventing or reducing impacts of autism, down syndrome, mood disorders and intellectual impairments in children, as well as staving off dementia, Alzheimer's and the like in elderly. Dr. Perlmutter’s work is a fantastic starting point for learning about the links between nutrition and brain health which historically is far too neglected.

As far as grains are concerned, we follow these same ideals opting for brown rice, quinoa and the like if we really want some grains-based foods, but as a general rule we try to limit carbohydrates in all its forms. Carbohydrates, even complex carbs from whole grains get converted to sugar, spiking insulin levels and any excess carbs that aren’t used as fuel are locked as triglycerides. Triglycerides are the fat cells that your body can’t use for energy and end up crowding intestines, burdening the heart and doing much of the damage. If we were elite athletes, or even just had an affinity for 5-10 workouts hours per week, a steady stream of regularly monitored carbohydrates may be beneficial. For us,  the ketogenic process of burning-fat for energy is easier and produces more palpable benefits.

The differences are noticeably stronger when looking at the “don’t eat” list. I love coffee. I enjoy seeking out varieties of fresh, fairly-traded coffee beans from far off places, thinking about the differences and enjoying the warm and inviting nature of the entire process. Grinding the beans and frothing the milk is my own personal therapy.  Dairy gets a yellow light with us. It’s mostly taken with coffee or as cheese and we only buy fresh, local, full fat jersey milk. For everything else, the sugar, flour and oils, we’re pretty much all-in with. Oliv oils for dressings and cooking with coconut oil or ghee (again saturated fats are essential)


At the end of the day, it’s unreasonable to look at any diet or nutrition plan whether it’s a published work, or someone’s personal program as one to follow 100%. Even though the USDA has recently revised it's Dietary Guidelines, it's still built on faulty conventional wisdom which over emphasises carbohydrates, confuses fas and is not harsh enough on sugar.  
While there are some essentials (mostly colourful vegetables, quality meats and fats, limit carbs, stay away from sugar), everyone’s going to need to approach their nutrition with flexibility and openness. Finances, time, tastes and environment are all real factors in determining a healthy diet that works. When you consider all of these factors, it makes sense why a professional athlete would stock their fridge differently than a public school teacher. Local and fresh foods mean different things in Hawaii as they would New Zealand, or a Canadian winter versus a California summer. Establishing or maintaining a healthy lifestyle for the long term doesn’t mean finding one formula but rather developing an approach or mindset that you can make work not just for a few weeks or months, but forever.

19 January 2016

The 4 most important exercises.

There are likely thousands if not millions of various exercise programs out there. As fantastic as it is to have so many options when it comes to exercising and maintaining an active lifestyle, there can be a certain level of apprehension leaving many overwhelmed. Should I look into team sports or a fitness class? What about hiking? Should I buy equipment or sign up for a gym? Should try to link up with others or go it alone? Whether it’s been eons since the last time we deliberately did anything to improve our fitness, or if our current, workout regimen has just gone a bit stale, not knowing where to turn, what to add, what to remove and what to focus on is a common problem many face in the long-term.


At the core of exercise is performing any movement effective in increasing muscle strength, flexibility, agility, balance and all other aspects of a healthy physical body. The functional purpose of movement is my favourite way to simplify the wealth of exercise options out there. Not only does “function” create a practical element to, i.e., “what exercises will help me do the everyday things I need to do?”, but it also allows more muscle groups to be engaged at once, drastically reducing the types of exercises, and most importantly, the time needed. Reducing time is key since it’s well documented that on the whole, exercise is relatively ineffective for health, and while beneficial is not nearly as essential and doesn’t warrant nearly as much attention, to healthy living compared to food.  Primal Blueprint founder Mark Sisson emphasises this approach characterising the most basic movements as fitness plans even cavemen did.

These basic movements are pushups, pullups, planks and squats. As far as strength building goes, these cover the most whole-body, yet functional, natural physiological movements. Lifting heavy boxes, climbing trees, stairs or ladders, moving furniture around, or carrying babies engage all of the same muscle groups and involve similar movements as these four exercises. This is in contrast to other common exercises that are not nearly as practical such as bicep curls which are more about body building and appearance than the strength of a physiologically important movement. Add in sprinting once and a while, and moving frequently at slow paces and you have the entire gamut of essential exercise to base the active aspects of your healthy lifestyle around.

Pushups, along with running represent perhaps the simplest and most “default exercise” there is. Everyone knows what pushups are, has tried to do them and has an understanding of their place in physical fitness. Whether they are elite competitive athletes, or people starting to exercise for the first time in decades, their program incorporate pushups, or moves that mimic pushups (i.e., the bench press). Simple as that.


When done properly, pushups engage your arms, chest, shoulders and core (abs and back) making them one of the most efficient and beneficial bodyweight movements there is. One of the other benefits in pushups is in the variety. There are many different forms of pushups allowing the movement to be adjusted for level of ability, pace, range of movement or even environment.

At their purest form, pushups are done lying face down on a flat surface, starting with your hands at shoulder height and just wider than shoulder width. I find that placing my hands at a width at which my forearms perpendicular to the ground when I’m I’m at rest (lying down) is the most comfortable, balanced and strong position. Feet placement can also very. The closer they are together the more difficult they are since wider feet make maintaining balance and a solid core easier, your trunk (abs, bank and hips) are crucial. You want to keep your whole body as rigid as possible. I have known people to place a broomstick on their back while they do pushups to make sure they remain solid. If you’re doing this, your heels or calves, butt, space between your shoulder blades and head should all be in contact with the stick, if not, odds are your trunk is sagging below. WellnessMama has a fantastic simple breakdown of the perfect pushup and many of the ways to modify the exercise depending on level of ability.

Despite being a very basic movement in theory, pullups are commonly regarded as one the most challenging exercises there is for many reasons. Your body weight affects your ability to do pullups more than pushups, situps and most other basic movements since unlike those, with pullups, your entire body counts as the weight. With most others, only a fraction of your body is being directly lifted and with squats, your lower body is naturally better equipped and more accustomed to supporting your body, than your upper is.


Grip-strength in my hands wrists and forearms is what poses the biggest difficulty for me personally. This is why without pullup counterweight machines many find it difficult to begin them if they haven’t tried them in a long time. Another simple way to progress through pullups is to simple use your legs to lightly support your weight. By gauging the effort required, you can gently press your feet against the ground or bench if the bar is too high, and slowly stand, making sure your effort is targeted on your back, shoulders and arms to do their fair share of work.
These variations are where the beauty of pullups lie. As challenging as they can be for beginners, there is plenty of room to make them easier or more difficult depending on your level and all approaches are fairly common sense. The wider your grip is the more difficult they are. Personally, I’ve spent a lot of time building up the ability to do the easiest form - narrow grip, palms facing backward. As 10 become regularly achievable, I started to widen the grip.  Adding more weight to your body makes them harder, and adding more support to your body (a bench to stand on, a counter-weight machine, muscle-ups) make them easier. Slowing down is also harder, as being able to pause mid motion is a true mark of strength.

Planks are the outlier movement here as they are the only one which doesn’t actually involve movement. Planks are an isometric exercise which means it involves holding steady position for a set period of time. Isometric exercises are more effective for your core due to the prolonged tension - staying flexed for a very long time rather than for repeated short bursts. Research shows this prolonged tension promotes strength and builds muscle-mass which is essential for a stable core that can support movement and steady posture for the entire body.


The most common plank form with face down, with your body supported only by your forearms and toes on the ground - the rest of your body in the air. It’s incredibly important to maintain a straight body from head to toe - like a plank of wood. Similar to pushups, a broom stick should be able to rest along the backs of your legs, butt, shoulders and head. Once this position is started, the goal is then to hold it for a set period as the burn settles in. If you can hold it for a full minute 2 or three times with short breaks in between to rest, you’re in pretty good shape. Aiming for shorter times, or going with your knees on the ground, so that less of your body weight is active are simple ways to scale the challenge back if you’re just starting out.

When done properly squats engage more of the entire body than any other single movement. Of course, the primary benefactor here is the lower body from the glutes all the way down to feet, but maintaining balance and control requires an immense level of effort from the core, back, shoulders and arms, especially if modifiers such as extra weight, single leg, or explosive movements are made. Squats have a reputation for being dangerous, but if proper form and controlled progression is emphasised, the potential for injury is as minimal as with any weight-bearing movement. The risk-factor does rise quite quickly if you overdo though, so no loud, eyes-closed wiggling around to make sure you push more weight than you should.


The basic squat involves a starting position of standing with your feet greater than shoulder-width apart. I generally set mine as wide as possible without it feel like I’m stretching - still comfortably standing. Then ti’s a matter of lowering your body bending at the knees to a target of 90 degrees which brings your thighs parallel to the ground, then rising back up to standing just before your knees lock straight. The difficult part is to maintain an arched back. Holding your torso upright rather than hunching or leaning forward is the most important factor in preventing injury. I try to make sure my torso changes as little as possible from standing to squatting - look forward, ideally at my reflection, with the chin up, shoulders back and my back straight enough so I don’t have to crane my head up to look straight.

The other key point to remember involves preventing your knees from bending inward or outward laterally. Your knees should be above your feet directly, so that they are not any closer or further from each other than your feet are. In other words, conscious effort should be given to ensure your shins are perpendicular to the ground rather than leaning to either side.


This is it. Regardless of where you decide to go as you chase an admirable health-related New Year’s resolution, or where to turn to next as you fall out of love with cross-fit, as long as you remember to keep these 4 essential exercises as the foundation, your workout program will be effective, efficient and practical in the real world.

13 January 2016

Google Fit app review: a free and excellent fitness tracker

If there's one piece of technology that has really exploded in popularity in recent years, it has to be fitness trackers. As recent as 3 years ago wearing devices around your wrist, clipped to your clothing was a niche market. At the same time, using phone app to track your runs or rides were common for enthusiasts and competitors, but the average person didn't care all that much. Since then however, it's difficult to be in a public place, a shopping centre, office, or busy pedestrian street without spotting many a lot of these devices on people's wrists.

Activity trackers likes Fitbits were among the most popular holiday gifts for the last couple of years. Whether it's dedicated devices or specific apps, it's become incredibly common, extremely easy and debatably useful for people track their steps, weight, distance travelled, energy burned and overall physical activity in pursuit of better health and well being. There are so many options with a wide range of features, form factors and price points, but if you're just starting out and testing the waters, Google Fit may be what you're looking for.

Google Fit is an activity tracker created and managed by Google, in the same vain as Gmail, Google Photos, and Google Calendar. Like all other Google Apps, Google Fit is at its core, web-based which means all information is stored and sorted on Google’s services and therefore accessible across all internet connected devices. Google Fit’s ability to automatically track steps, distance and all other typical use-case information, requires your phone to run Android 4.0 (Ice Cream Sandwich) if the phone itself is going to be the primary tracker. The Android OS version shouldn’t be a worry as over 90% of all Android devices run at least 4.0 - if you have an Android device younger than 5 years, you should be good.

What Google Fit does

Google Fit is an app which tracks all of the basic markers of physical activity - steps, distance, active time and energy burned. It also allows you enter goals for each on a daily or weekly basis, and enter your weight measurements. The ring is usually the first graphic you see which fills as you build your activity each day with different colours differentiating between different information. The app is able to intelligently distinguish between walking and running, so if you forget to identifying a run, it will still log your steps, energy and the rest as your pace picks up. It's needy, but fun, to go back and find out that it identified those times you quickly scurried across the road or ran around the yard with the dog for a few minutes. Of course, for deliberate workouts, you can select your activity from a massive list (A-Z, Aerobics to Zumba) and the app will smartly configure energy burning, steps and active time for you. You can also enter an activity afterwards - in case you forgot or didn’t have your phone, or any tracking device on you at the time of your workout.

Google Fit then sorts all of this information and presents it to you in real time and with next to no effort. Simple rings and bars show progress, icons are clear and the overall interface make scrolling through past activities, entering new data, changing settings or viewing progress trends easy and fast. The app is designed incredibly cleanly and refrains from bombarding you with menus, options and other elements that could create a cluttered and distracting user experience. Everything you could want to see is incredibly easy to find.

Google Fit is free and available everywhere
The best things about Google Fit are it's price and availability. As alluded to before, like most Google services it is entirely free and accessible anywhere. Download the app to your Android phone, spend 5 seconds activating it and you're good to go. There's no need to turn it on or off when you want to use it, once you're setup it just just keeps working. I am pretty deliberate with tracking my activity, it's fun for me, so I'm always looking at the app on my phone, or on my laptop (fit.google.com) to see how things are going. My wife doesn't care so much, but does like to see from time to time. She remembers her phone does this maybe once a week and very simply she can get a solid idea of how active she's been over the last few days, weeks or months. Of course, this depends on your phone being on you, unless you have a tracker or smart watch.

The availability is where I find the most piece of mind. Apple Health requires an Apple device, there is now Web version, so if you one day move to Android or Windows phone and your history is locked within Apple's walls. As said before, Google Fit being available via a browser adds a greater layer of openness for the long term. It's so handy to be able to look at my activity on my phone, tablet and laptop, and it pulls from most other notable fitness trackers to combine everything in one place is incredible. The value increases exponentially as I'll still be able to do so when I upgrade all of those devices. IT should be noted however that synschornisation isn’t perfect - at least not in real-time. Below is a photo of the web-site screen, my tablet and phone and as you can see the information is close, but not exactly the same. Past results all seem to be consolidated, for example the logs are all identical as of 2 days ago and earlier, but real-time and the day before seem to be be slightly conflicting.

While the slight glitch in across-device consistency isn’t perfect, this flexibility is the greater plus. Maintaining a healthy lifestyle is forever, so if you're in the camp that finds value in activity tracking, being locked into whatever device you're using in a given moment, and the possibility of losing everything if and when you change to something else is a big deal. You may use a step counter now, then take up running next year and therefore want a different device made by a specific running brand like Polar, change phone makers 2 years later, and who knows what else in the decades to follow. It pains me that the biggest line, Fitbit is refusing to partner with Google (or Apple) on this. Fitbits are great, but on a  personal level I don't like services that are built to lock me in.

There's no iOS app yet
The unfortunate and frankly, un-Google aspect is that there currently is not iOS app. The Google Fit app is exclusive to Android, just like Apple’s version, HealthKit is exclusive to iOS. This means that iPhone users can use Google Fit to keep their records, but the phone’s sensors can’t feed into Google Fit directly. That being said, Google has allowed access to developers for anyone who chooses to use their APIs, which means that most of the well known fitness apps, Nike, Strava, Adidas, Withings, Runtastic, RunKeeper, and MapMyFitness can all synch to Google Fit. So, if you use Strava to track your bike rides, Nike+ to track your runs, plus want a place to log your weight each week, Google Fit can be your one-stop-shop. It is bothersome that Google Fit is not available on iOS. Google Apps are usually written for Apple devices (Gmail, Drive, Google Maps, Google Play Music and Google Photos are all on iOS), as Google’s model is built on allowing everyone to use their services, so Google Fit may be coming. Long story short, if you have an Android device, you’re all set, if not, you’ll need a fitness tracker otherwise you’ll be entering things manually.

Google Fit is a free application for logging and tracking your physical activity and workouts. There’s no iOS app yet, but you can still access the app via the website which is a very big advantage. This, plus the fact that it can link to almost all other fitness tracking devices (i.e., Withings, Runtastic, Strava, Nike+, RunKeeper, etc) means that your activity will stay with you regardless of what watch, phone, wristband, tablet or laptop you find yourself using as the years go on. And, given that maintaining an active and healthy lifestyle isn’t a temporary endeavour, the ability to keep tracking your workouts, if you find so beneficial, regardless of what watch, phone or wristband you’re using is incredible.

The link to the website is fit.google.com and you can find the

06 January 2016

How to exercise without exercising

There’s a misconception that exercise is based around explicit and unique activities. To one point, it’s understandable why someone would, in efforts to increase strength would approach weight machines and a rack of dumbbells as the best way to do it. If greater endurance is the goal, then something that you wouldn’t do for any other reason than to build endurance, like jogging, makes perfect sense. 

On the other hand, this mentality can create a barrier for some. Treating exercise as a specific task can make it seem more daunting, or difficult to work into a busy schedule. The idea that someone may have trouble finding time for 3-4 hours of working out each week isn’t all that difficult to grasp when juggling family, work and leisure. Dropping stationary bike in front of a TV, or turning a walking session into a chance to catch up with a friend are highly common and highly recommended ways of mitigating these challenges.


This idea of recontextualising exercise can be taken even further however. Removing the “specificity” from exercise and embracing the overall function and purpose of exercise - to move and challenge the body physically, allows people to live exercise filled lifestyles with minimal burdens on time and psychological commitment. If you can remember that anything where you’re lifting heavy things, pushing the heart rate up in short bursts, and moving frequently at slow paces, it’s much easier to exercise more, without exercises at all. Here are some idea:

Housework - cleaning, mowing, gardening, etc.
If the definition of exercise boils down to any activity to requiring physical effort, housework fits the bill perfectly. Vacuuming, sweeping, and mopping take time, get your heart pumping and depending on the size and layout of your house, can involve a lot of lifting of heavy buckets of water or vacuum cleaners up and down stairs or in and out of sinks or tubs.

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Mowing the lawn, dumping the clippings and carrying around the edge trimmer can be so physically taxing of a workout, that the very nature of this task influences the type of houses people buy and where they choose to live. We always knew our fairly large yard took about two hours, but once we realised it also involved 6km of walking and over 9000 steps, it made mowing far less dreadful. It’s of course still a pain, but the simple psychological shift has allowed for greater motivation and has further improved the health of my body and property alike.

Whether it’s house cleaning, yard work or general repairs and renovations, embracing these activities as beneficial to your physical fitness is a fantastic way of not just exercising, but of getting things done. Two jobs that need to be done that can easily be too boring or time consuming to get done, are now covered simultaneously. Spend a couple hours turning soil and pulling weeds and you have a productive afternoon in a bit of nature and have a much improved garden. Spend the same amount of time, and physical exertion on an elliptical trainer and while it may have been a good workout, you have far less to show for it.

Playing with pets, kids, family, friends, etc.
Despite what conventional wisdom indicates, exercise isn’t about calories burned, but about movement. The concept of “calories in, calories out” is one so oversimplified, it’s borderline meaningless. While the basis for burning enough calories to offset the amount you take in is scientifically correct, the process by which calories, both in and out follow are far more complicated than needing to stay on a treadmill for a certain amount of time to work off that breakfast muffin.

In this light, the emphasis is again on frequent movement of various, spontaneous intensities integrated into your lifestyle. Among the best platforms for this, is play. While play is usually associated with children, it is undoubtedly one of the most time-tested and traditional cultural activities throughout history. Play gets incorrectly boxed in too strongly with physical activity and competition as its benefits go far beyond that, into the realms of creativity, competition, teamwork and many other psychological attributes applicable to everyday life. Stuart Brown, a psychologist who has dedicated decades to studying play’s beneficial properties to both personal therapy and business optimsation calls it a “profound biological process” and suggests that play continually shapes the human brain throughout our lifetime.

In his book Play: How it shapes the brain, opens the imagination and invigorates the soul, Dr Brown provides the evidence that, even though for adults taking time to play with our friends, kids, family and pets is taken as an unproductive guilty pleasure only possible on vacations, it is anything but trivial. Play is a biological drive as integral to our health and development as sleep or nutrition. This goes beyond the common knowledge around brain-teasing puzzles such as jigsaws, riddles, and board games and marries the neurological challenges with the physical, social and emotional aspects of development strengthening the way we parent, educate, work and govern all layers of society.


We all know how important it is to find time for fun during a busy work schedule, but rather than framing play as an unimportant luxury you’re just too busy or tired for, make it a priority. Organise some two-on-two basketball, splash around in the pool with your kids, or run and roll around with your dogs. Doing so, won’t just benefit your mood, but will add to the health, wellbeing and even the productivity of you and everyone else involved - though, how advantageous play is to pets’ productivity is still under examination.

Last week, I asked everyone following my Healthy Forever Google+ Collection whether they considered housework as exercise. To my pleasant susprise, close to 80% of the near 200 votes at the time said yes. The reality is, that trying to keep all aspects of life compartmentalised as singular activities is rarely possible. Broadening our approaches to life, and in this case our exercise, allows us to cover more ground with less time.

For the record, I enjoy the gym, most of the time, which is the same for just about all forms of exercise or physical activity there is. If you’re a gym-rat and love nothing more than setting up a different day of the week to specific isolated muscle groups, congratulations, that’s awesome. A lot of people though, go through phases depending on their other responsibilities, money, the weather or motivation levels and while committing to the weekend road run or crossfit twice a week is obviously an admirable endeavor, it’s important to understand that exercise comes in many forms and therefore, with the right approach, doesn’t have to be all that time restrictive.

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