Tag Archives: health

How would you spend $150 on your health?

Ahead of the Black Friday/Cyber Monday sales I got a discount offer from Withings for their well-regarded WS-50 connected scale.  This bathroom scale measures one’s weight, heart rate, body fat composition, etc, and automatically uploads it to the Withings Healthmate web service. Since I already manually enter my weight and resting heart rate into Healthmate, this seemed like an elegant way to automate this, but I baulked at the $150 price tag.

That then set me to think about what the “best” way I could boost my health with a $150 spend at the present time, and then to start asking other people what they would choose for themselves?  Since I saw quite a few people at dinners and parties over the Thanksgiving holidays it became the spark for some funny and insightful conversations about health, interventions, personal incentives, etc.

Here’s a list of the answers that I can remember:

  • An everyday object, e.g. a Japanese teapot, that is a joy to use
  • Copay for a comprehensive “executive” medical exam/tests
  • Cycling heart-rate or cadence meter
  • Fitbit activity tracker
  • Lamb chops (“healthier than steak”)
  • Massage
  • Running shoes
  • Nutrition classes
  • Organic food
  • Pass to continue existing classes, e.g. spinning
  • Pass to try new classes, e.g. yoga, spinning, tai chi, etc (this was a popular choice)
  • Session with trainer to learn how to lift free-weights properly
  • Spa day
  • Wifi-connected bathroom scale
  • Year’s supply of statins

I have not (yet) bought the Withings scale, even at a $112 Cyber Monday sale price, and I actually will be spending my 150 health dollars on copays, etc, to try to clear up a recent knee injury I’ve sustained.

How would you spend $150 today on boosting your health?

365 Days of Exercise

Screenshot 2015-09-24 06.09.48Today I hit the milestone of having an unbroken chain of daily exercise for 365 days. Although I have for most of my life stayed fit through doing serious workouts 2 or 3 times a week (mostly cycling, with some running, weights, swimming and miscellaneous classes), I decided that I wanted to boost my overall health by committing to getting a non-trivial amount of exercise every single day.

My initial motivation was Dan Buettner’s work on “Blue Zones“, the regions of the world where lifespans (and “health spans”) are materially longer than average, and the observation that one of the common factors was daily movement.  This might be daily physical work, such as farming, or hobbies such as gardening and social walking.  Although I still believe that intense exercise (cardio and weight training) is necessary for fitness and weight management, I also now believe that daily non-intense exercise is enormously beneficial for overall healthy and longevity.

At the time I was also interested in using Jerry Seinfeld’s “chain” method for habit formation, where one tries to keep the chain of a daily goal unbroken for as long as possible.  Since I lived 1.7mi (30 mins walk) from work, and often would take the bus in in the morning and walk home in the evening (or vice versa), I adopted this as the minimum daily goal for the chain.  Some days I would go for a bike ride or other activity that would significantly exceed this goal of course.

Things went great for around 160 days.  Then one day I travelled to stay with friends and simply forgot to get a walk in!  I did remember as I was falling asleep, but decided to let it go and restart the chain.  I started again the next day, and 365 days later, here I am!

Although I am fairly disciplined about my health, it’s taken some serious effort to maintain this chain, and I plan on keeping it going forever.  So far I have not had any illness to battle against (not bad for 160+1+365 days I realized), and although “30 minutes of walking” remains the benchmark, I now live 1.1mi from  work and walk both ways, so my daily norm is a bit higher.  I also have recently started wearing a Garmin Vivoactive activity tracker and will probably select a certain step count as the new definition of the goal.

Have I seen any quantifiable benefit?  I would have to say that I have not, as my blood numbers, weight, resting heart rate, frequency of illness, etc, were all ok before I started.  Walking isn’t much of a calorie burner (approximately 130 cals for 1.7 mi, dwarfed by the 3000+ cals of a 4 hour bike ride, for example).  Living in San Francisco and not owning a car meant I already was getting a fair amount of ad hoc, if inconsistent, walking done.

But I strongly believe this is an investment in long term health and longevity.   I was delighted to read a report last month that “a daily walk can add seven years to your life.”  I also think that as an exercise in chain-based habit formation it has been a great success, and I have since used the same method for other habits.  Finally, the daily walks have also become my main podcast listening times, which itself has become an excellent new habit, hooking me on shows such as the TED Radio Hour, The Moth, and the Tim Ferriss Show.