• [3-Minute Blog] 5 Natural Ways to Reduce Inflammation

    The past two weeks we have looked at what inflammation is and what foods can trigger its onset.  

    This week I want to show you five natural ways to reduce inflammation. 

    Sleep at least 7 hours a night

    Sleep is a topic which we have discussed extensively on this blog. And for good reason too. There has been much research on the effects of losing sleep on the body, one of which is inflammation. Sleeping less even for a single night increases inflammation in your body. 

    A crucial routine that must be established in your sleeping routine is setting a specific time in which you go to sleep and wake up. This is so that you are in line with your circadian rhythm which is an important aspect of good health.

    The circadian rhythm is basically your 24-hour internal clock which is also known as your sleep/wake cycle. It works best when you have regular sleep habits, like going to bed at night and waking up in the morning around the same times from day to day. When these routines are disrupted, it can cause a person to feel under the weather and makes it harder to pay attention. 

    In addition to that, the disruption of the circadian rhythm can also dysregulate your immune system and with it, your levels of inflammation can also go up too.   

    Adopt an anti-inflammatory diet

    There isn’t a specific anti-inflammatory diet per se. Rather it’s the choices you make. 

    In simple terms, an anti-inflammatory diet contains a lot of vegetables, fruits, healthy fats, lean protein, whole grains and spices. Exactly the same “diet” that I encourage my clients to adapt. (Want to find out more about my Lean & Healthy Programme? Click here

    An anti-inflammatory diet also limits the consumption of sugar, processed foods, refined carbs and unhealthy fats. We discussed foods that can onset inflammation in the previous blog, you can read it here.

    But how does an anti-inflammatory diet combat inflammation? An anti-inflammatory diet focuses on foods which contain high levels of antioxidants. Antioxidants can be found in a lot of fruit and vegetables and contain the key to fighting off harmful by-products in our bodies called free radicals which are dangerous as they can damage cells leading to inflammation. Other key foods to combat inflammation are omega-3 containing foods found in fish and nuts. 

    If you want a simple approach to an anti-inflammatory diet, then read about my simple nutrition philosophy.  

    Exercise regularly 

    Most people exercise to lose weight. But the fact is, exercise isn’t just a weight-loss tool, it is, more importantly, a well-being tool. This is one of the crucial first lessons I teach my clients. 

    Regular exercise is essential, regardless of your age and weight. Just like our body needs food, the body also needs movement. Nearly every single cell in the body’s well-being is connected with movement. What does it mean for us? The more we move, the better we feel.

    When we exercise, inflammation is brought down by the removal of waste by the lymphatic system. The fresh pump of blood and oxygen around the body allows the build-up of toxins in the body to be removed as well as gently restoring your digestive system. So whether or not you want to shed that fat, burning your calories will help you greatly in reducing inflammation. 

    As little as 20-minutes daily exercise is shown to reduce inflammation significantly. Also, there are many research studies confirming the beneficial effects of exercise on inflammation. 

    Maintain a healthy weight 

    Most people are unaware of the fact that their own excess body fat can cause dangerous implications to their health such as inflammation. If you want to know more about how being overweight is directly linked to inflammation, I would highly recommend reading this research study

    The link between obesity and increased inflammation is pretty much an established fact in science. So if you are overweight, you certainly need to start doing something to lose your excess weight. 

    If you need my help, I’m more than pleased to help you achieve that dream ( Find out more about my Lean & Healthy Programme here).

    Use spices and herbs

    Most people think superfoods are expensive and out of reach. But the truth is, every one of us has easy access to these superfoods and don’t even know it. These underappreciated superfoods are already lying in your kitchen closet. Yep, I’m talking about spices and herbs. Spices and herbs are extremely potent when compared to any other foods. Adding them to your food can increase the antioxidant power of your meal, and they also taste good too. 

    The top two spices that reduce inflammation are garlic and turmeric. In fact, a study conducted by researchers at the University of Texas shows that curcumin (an active substance in turmeric) is among the most effective anti-inflammatory compounds in the world.

    Spices and herbs like cayenne pepper, ginger, clove, cinnamon, rosemary and sage are also known for their powerful anti-inflammatory compounds. 

    So next time you cook, make sure to add those spices and herbs to increase the antioxidant power of your meal. 

    Three Take Away Lessons: 

    1. Sleep! Maintaining good sleep hygiene is an important part of regulating inflammation 
    2. Eat a balanced and anti-inflammatory diet. How? Pack in those antioxidants found in fruit & vegetables as well as spices & herbs
    3. Exercising regularly will help to reduce inflammatory factors and contribute to your overall well being
  • How to Become Smarter, Think Better and Achieve a Healthy Brain (Part 2)

    Movement is truly a magical pill. It’s great for anyone, and it improves every area of your life, but most importantly movement can help you become smarter and achieve a healthy brain. We discussed this in detail in part one. In today’s article, we’ll continue to look at the benefits of movement for our brain and briefly discuss how eating less can help you thrive.

    I thought of starting with this very interesting hadith, which places exercise on an entirely different level. In an authentic hadith that is narrated in At-Tabarani, the Prophet Muhammed (PBUH) said, “Any action which is void of the remembrance of Allah is either a distraction or heedlessness except for four actions: Walking from target to target, i.e. during archery practice, training a horse, playing with one’s family, and learning to swim.”

    What is most amazing about this hadith is, almost all of what the Prophet Muhammed (PBUH) mentioned here are physical activities that promote one’s physical strength and health. Though there are so many lessons to be learned from this hadith, for the sake of brevity I would just like to stick to the apparent meaning of it. According to this hadith, your time spent on physical movements or exercise is certainly beneficial for you in this world and the Aakhira than doing other mundane things.  

    The latest science is unambiguous about the benefits exercise has on our mood as well as spirituality. Let’s dig in!

    Exercise is the best medicine for depression

    For long, I had the impression that Muslims are generally safe from depression, but that seems to be far from the truth.

    Depression is a serious issue in many Muslim communities around the world. A truly practising, God-conscious Muslim may be safer from depression than less practising Muslims, but this doesn’t mean that God-consciousness is automatically protection against depression. Depression is a real illness and affects people in different ways. It’s important that we acknowledge this and start working on treating it effectively.

    Most clinically depressed people get medications prescribed but we now know that simple exercise and movement can help these people better than their expensive medicines. At least, that’s what I’ve found digging in countless research papers.

    In the incredible book, How of Happiness, Sonja Lubermeski talks about the importance of walking/jogging (generally about aerobic exercises) for being happy and warding off depression. 

    In this book, she cites a scientific research, where clinically depressed individuals are taken into a lab. The researchers split them into three groups. The first group was assigned to four months of aerobic exercise while the second group got an antidepressant medication (Zoloft) and the third group got both exercise and the medication. 

    Here are the results in the word of the author herself:

    “Remarkably, by the end of the four-month intervention period, all three groups had experienced their depressions lift and reported fewer dysfunctional attitudes and increased happiness and self-esteem. Aerobic exercise was just as effective at treating depression as was Zoloft, or as a combination of exercise and Zoloft. Yet exercise is a lot less expensive, usually with no side effects apart from soreness. Perhaps even more remarkably, six months later, participants who had ‘remitted’ (recovered) from their depressions were less likely to relapse if they had been in the exercise group (six months ago!) than if they had been in the medication group.” 

    Subhanallah! That was truly my reaction when I first read this! May Allah subuhanawuta’la grant us all the ability to understand and put the beneficial things we learn into practice.

    Now, if you want to take one step further, try to walk/exercise in forests or natural parks. It seems that being outside in nature is much better than just walking on the treadmill inside your house or gym.  

    In Move Your DNA, Katy Bowman tells us just how walking in the forest is beneficial for our energetic hygiene.

    Here’s how she puts it: “Shinrin-yoku, or ‘forest bathing,’ is the process of making contact with and taking in the atmosphere of the forest. Heavily researched in Japan, forest-bathing has been shown to promote lower concentrations of cortisol, lower pulse rate and blood pressure, and a reduction of ‘technostress,’ as measured by a reduction in cerebral activity.

    While anyone who has spent a few hours wandering out in nature can tell you that yes, it’s very relaxing, it is through scientific investigations that the mechanism behind our physiological response to the trees is better understood.

    We aren’t responding to the trees per se, but rather undergoing an invisible interaction with phytoncides—active chemical substances given off by plants. The tree, secreting these substances to ward off harmful bugs and rot, is also providing us with a compound that does our body good.”

    Why exercise is good for your creativity

    All truly great thoughts are conceived by walking.” – Nietsche 

    In Healthy Brain, Happy Life, Neuroscientist Wendy Suzuki argues that exercise can be a very powerful medium to increase your creative juices

    She argues that hippocampus (we talked about it in part one, remember?) is not only important for memory, but also for imagination, which is a key component of creativity.

    Now, how does exercise play a part in your creativity? Well, exercise helps to create brand-new brain cells (aka neurogenesis) in the hippocampus. And she hypothesises that these new brain cells enhance our imaginative ability.  

    I feel this is so true from my own experience. Whenever I’m stuck in my writing process, all I do is a vigorous walk. Soon after my walk, I feel it’s much easier to write and share my ideas with you 🙂

    In this short 3-minute video, she explains how exercise can help you improve your creativity in a nutshell.

    How movement can help your children to excel

    As a father of three gorgeous princesses, I’m always interested in how I can help my children to excel in everything they do.

    So after learning about the significance of movement for brain health, I was intrigued to know how important it is for children.

    Do you want me to summarise everything I learned about movement for kids? Here is what I can tell you in a few sentences:

    If you want your child to behave well, have more focus and excel in education (I guess that’s what pretty much all the parents want, right?), one of the best and easiest things you can do is to make your child move a lot. The more he/she moves, the better they become at it.

    What the most fascinating thing is, that movement (any sports or exercise in general) help your children to control their emotions better. If you have a teen at home, you know how important emotion control is 🙂 So what’s the best thing you can do for your kids? Chase them outside to move more. Let them run, play and jump as much as they can. The last thing they need is a digital device to keep them hooked on their chair.

    Here are some studies (among 100s of studies) that I find most interesting to share. In a fascinating study in the University of Dublin, Ireland, scientists found that students who work out regularly had a better memory than students who didn’t work out. So, if you are a student or if you just want a great memory (and memory is the most important ingredient for learning), I don’t know of a better way to boost your brain than by working out regularly.

    Research in the Review of Sport and Exercise Psychology found that the higher fitness level of students is associated with higher cognitive performance and academic performance.

    In another research involving more than 1000 students, scientist found that passing both the Mathematics and English test increased as the number of fitness tests passed increased.

    So here is the takeaway message for you: Activities or the movements I’ve been talking about are great for anyone. It improves every area of your life. However, the number of hours your kids spend in movement define who they are in 5,10 or 20 years!

    There is so much more to share about the benefits of movement, but for the sake of brevity, I’m stopping here. However, I hope I’ve now convinced you to move more 🙂

    If that’s the case, here is a simple protocol to move more.

    How to move more: 

    I keep on mentioning the word move because it encompasses all the activities too (Check part one to learn more). You can move pretty much any day, anywhere, in any fashion. You don’t need any particular plans or outfits. You are free to do when and where you want.

    So the tips I’m going to provide you are exclusively about moving more and not about working out more. There is a difference, and I talked about it in part one.

    Here are some of my practical ideas (that I follow and teach my clients too). Start what is easy for you and then build up slowly.

    10’000 steps a day

    Regardless of your fitness level, starting to move 10,000 (roughly around 7 km) steps a day is a great place to start. If that’s a difficult goal, at least start with 5,000 steps and then increase the steps slowly to achieve your 10,000-steps-a-day goal.

    Here is the thing; you don’t need to make these 10,000 steps in one sitting. Every small step counts. You can track your steps on your smartphone or smartwatch. To achieve your daily 10,000 steps, here are a few practical suggestions: 

    • Track your progress: What gets tracked gets improved. Just the simple act of tracking will motivate you to move more.
    • Plan your walk ahead: Plan to go for a walk at least two times for 20 minutes a day.
    • Walk 2 minutes every hour: Every waking hour, walk at least for 2 minutes (check the research I mentioned in part one of this article). If you are awake 16 hours a day, it makes a total of 32 minutes. Set an automatic reminder (I use this app), otherwise, you’ll forget it.
    • Use stairs instead of elevators.
    • Instead of taking a short cut to masjid/work/office/school, take a slightly longer route. Even if it’s just 50 m longer, it adds up.

    How eating less leads to a healthier brain

    In part one, I told you that there are two simple hacks to achieve a healthier brain. The second hack is about eating less. Eating less has tremendous health benefits for us. It’s not just about losing weight, but the benefits have a lot to do with increased lifespan (these researchers are done on mice and monkeys, not on humans), less age-related diseases etc.

    According to this research from Florida State University, one of the most important benefits of eating less is perhaps that it may reduce the risks of neurodegenerative disorders, such as Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease etc.

    And in many other researchers that are done on mice and monkeys prove that a calorie restricted diet, in fact, may improve brain health in various ways.

    Though we don’t have conclusive results on how caloric reduction can lead to better brain health in humans, scientists do say that the preliminary results indicate a positive change in the brain health of humans, when they reduce their calories.

    So these researches are still in preliminary stages. But that didn’t prevent me from mentioning it, because I’ve got the hadith of our beloved Prophet Muhammed (PBUH) to back up 🙂 As you know, in the Sunnah, we are advised to eat less and encouraged not to fill our stomach. As long as we stick to the Sunnah, we’ve certainly countless benefits for this world and in the Aakhira. And given from all the other research materials, we know that eating less has huge benefits for our well-being and there is no reason to believe that the benefits won’t extend to our brain health.

    I do need to insist on one thing here. The quality of your food trumps the quantity of your food. So just eating less won’t help you, if the quality of your food is sub-optimal. The types of food you eat influences your health, mood and emotions more than the quantity of your food. Consuming 300 calories’ worth of broccoli is not the same as eating a cup of sugar-laden cereals with 300 calories.

    And we also know from studies that sugar for instance increase laziness and unhealthy trans-fats make you more aggressive. And both sugar and trans-fats are abundant in most processed foods.

    So next time you sit to start, make sure you eat whole quality foods that are not processed and eat only until you are 80 per cent full.

    If you need my help to instil healthy habits in your life so that you can become the best version of you, then click here.

  • How to Become Smarter, Think Better And Achieve a Healthy Brain

    Your brain is perhaps the most fascinating thing in the universe! Its ability to do good, innovate and create is the most amazing thing any creation of Allah can do! Nevertheless, the brain is also the most neglected and the least taken care of organ in our body. My sincere hope is that this article will transform the way you take care of that precious organ!  

    Your brain is the gateway to your intellect. And the intellect is one of the greatest blessings Allah subuhanawuta’la has bestowed upon us. He has honoured the man and favoured him over other creatures through this intellect.  

    In fact, one of the objectives of Islamic Sharia is to protect the intellect at any cost. It is for this reason that Allah subuhanawuta’la has forbidden all types of intoxicants and drugs, which He describes as an abomination of Satan’s handiwork: “O you who believe, intoxicants, gambling, stone altars and divining arrows are abominations devised by Satan. Avoid them so that you may be successful.” (Sura Al-Maa’idah, 5:90)

    While it’s obligatory to protect our intellect from all these forbidden things, it’s also highly commendable in Islam to work on practical things to develop our intellect. And one way of doing that is obviously protecting our brain from damages and improving its efficiency in every possible way.

    For this reason, I’ve talked about brain health extensively in some of my previous articles too. In those articles, I’ve argued how nutrition, sleep, exercise, prayer etc. play an important role in building a smarter and healthier brain.

    My goal today is to show you how you can become smarter, think better and achieve a healthy brain even at an old age by immediately following these two simple hacks:

    1. Move more
    2. Eat less

    Move more

    What do I mean by movement?

    Movement is moving your whole body or a part of your body to avoid being sedentary. So, a movement can be anything like walking, running, exercising, dancing, jumping, hanging, standing, cleaning your house, washing your dishes, playing with your children, stretching, tapping your legs, waving your hands, etc. etc. etc.

    Source: Move Your DNA

    In short, a movement is anything but sitting, standing or lying down.

    By this definition, even cooking becomes a movement. Cleaning? Yes of course! Likewise, walking running, doing yoga, working out all becomes a movement.

    Though not all movements are equal, even those small movements add up throughout the day and benefit our health immensely.

    The difference between exercise and movement

    Now, this may lead you to ask the question, what then the real difference is between movement and exercise.

    Well, unlike movement, exercise is something that you do on a particular day in a particular place in a particular way. Going to the gym? Yes, you are exercising! Jogging? Yes, of course.

    Source: Move Your DNA

    So most of us focus on how much we exercise. That’s actually great, but just exercise alone isn’t enough for optimum health.

    How excessive sitting cancels the benefits of exercise

    In a highly researched book, Are You Fully Charged, the Author Tom Rath references a 2014 study by the National Institute of Health of America. The study estimates that every two hours of sitting cancels out the benefits of 20 minutes of exercise. When researchers from the National Institutes of Health followed more than 200,000 people for a decade, they found that even seven hours of moderate to vigorous physical activity a week was not enough to protect against the hazards of excessive sitting. Even the most active group they studied — people who exercised more than seven hours every week — had a 50 per cent greater risk of death and doubled their odds of dying from heart disease if they were also in the group that sat the most throughout the day.

    And there are reams of such studies that do confirm this: Excessive sitting cannot be counteracted by few minutes of exercise a day.

    What’s the solution then? The solution is to start moving more! Finding new ways to replace your sedentary habits with more movement.

    Remember, regular exercise is and should be part of your overall movement, but movement should occupy a lion share in your daily life!  

    Source: Move Your DNA

    A simple hack to move more

    In some of my previous articles, I’ve provided quite a lot of practical ways to move more. Check them out:

    All of the practical ways I’ve mentioned in these articles are incredibly easy and simple to do. However, the one I’m going to mention now is perhaps the easiest and doable for most folks.

    If you are someone who sits all day long (ok, I agree that’s how most humans work 🙂 ), try taking a tiny break and walk for just two minutes! That’s it. Yep, walk just two minutes every hour! Isn’t that easy?

    I know you are sceptical, aren’t you? But, latest research verifies my claim and shows that as little as two minutes of movement every hour can help improve your health. The underlying message from this research is that all physical activity counts. The little things you do every day, such as climbing a flight of stairs or walking every two minutes an hour can add up and affect your health positively.

    Just two minutes of walking every hour won’t make you slim, but it certainly can counteract some of the negativity of prolonged sitting.

    Good-bye to exercise?

    Now does it mean, you can say good-bye to your regular exercise and just do the two minutes walk every hour? Obviously not, exercise is incredibly important for our health, sleep and most importantly for our brain.

    But exercise alone isn’t enough if you want to move the needle towards optimum health, including your brain health.

    While working out at least 30 minutes, 3-4 times a week is essential for a healthy body, focusing on frequent movement throughout the day is more important for your overall health, brain health and disease prevention.

    As you know, health isn’t just synonymous for being lean. It’s not about how you look in the mirror. It’s more about living a disease free life, having more energy in life to do things that are meaningful and important, being more productive and most importantly having a brain that can think straight, contemplate about the creations of Allah and focus well.

    I would even argue, your brain health is the be-all and end-all of your health. What else is the benefit of your “health”, if you can’t even think straight, contemplate or focus well? 

    If you want to learn how to eat, move and sleep for an abundant life – i.e. if you are interested in taking a holistic approach to transforming your health – here’s how to get started

    Your brain health is essential for everyday life such as making decisions, focusing, learning, memorising etc. Now, let’s see how movement and exercise help your brain to master your days effectively.

    How Movement Keeps Your Brain healthy

    To understand how movement keeps your brain healthy, you first need to understand what a hippocampus is. (Nope, it’s not the Hippo that lives in sub-Saharan Africa 🙂 )

    Hippocampus is a small organ located within the brain. One of its main functions has to do with memory and spatial navigation.

    In other words, to learn anything new, to remember the things you learned or even just to find your hotel in a new city, you need hippocampus’ help. The hippocampus’ true role is much more than I can mention in this short article. Its importance is so great, some scientists call the hippocampus as the “heart of the brain.”

    If you are interested to know how important hippocampus role is in your daily life, then watch this short video:

    So part of keeping your brain healthy is keeping your hippocampus healthy. But here is the problem: your hippocampus starts to shrink year by year starting by the age of 20. Already at 40 years, 20 per cent of the hippocampus will have dwindled.

    And that shrinking decreases hippocampus ability to function well. You can notice this mostly in people above 50 years old that they have some difficulty to learn a new thing, such as using a computer or smartphone.

    Are you doomed after 50?

    Now does it mean that we are all doomed after 50? Nope, not at all. There is one magic pill that can slow down the shrinking and keep your brain young and healthy for quite a long time. That is exercise, particularly, aerobic exercise.

    Did you say wow? I did that when I first came across all these research materials! It’s fascinating to know that you can become smarter, think better and achieve a healthy brain by just moving more daily.

    So go, move yourself to keep your brain smart and healthy!

    I’ll meet you in the second part of this article with much more “wow” things.

    Until then, I wish you “movement full” of days.

  • How to Move More in Less Time

    Moving is the best medicine. Our ancestors moved most of their waking hours, hence were free from the many of the civilizational diseases known to us today. With the onset of industrialisation, we reduced our movements significantly and thus increased our disease rates exponentially. With robust scientific studies, I want to help you move more in less time so that you can live an abundant life.

    Allah subuhanawuta’ala designed our body to be active and not to be sedentary. The biomechanics of our body is a proof for that. Our ancestors used to move around 450 minutes a day, that was roughly 7 hours a day. And we? We move less than 300 minutes a week (yes, a week, this is not a typo)! That’s less than what our ancestors did in a day!

    Most of us spend most of our waking hours sitting. We sit while working at a desk, we sit while driving our cars and finish off the day sitting on the sofa watching TV!

    And the repercussions of this kind of lifestyle are pretty clear! Tons of studies show that the more we sit, the greater our chances of dying of heart disease, stroke, cancer, or diabetes.

    In a study published in the American Journal of Medicine, the scientist calculated the cost of habitual inactivity. They say the lack of physical activity accounts for 22% of coronary heart disease, 22% of colon cancer, 18% of osteoporotic fractures, 12% of diabetes and hypertension, and 5% of breast cancer.

    This inactivity accounts for about 2.4% of U.S. healthcare expenditures or approximately $24 billion a year. On a global scale, this can be trillions of dollars!

    But that’s not all. Our physical inactivity increases the likelihood of becoming overweight or obese. We tend to get back and joint pain. And more importantly, sitting for an extended time saps our energy, decreases our productivity and makes us more tired than ever.

    So, spending most of our waking hours sitting or being sedentary is a disservice we do to ourselves, to our families and to the society we live in.

    Now, you may ask, what’s the solution? The solution is simple: move more. And I understand if you say you don’t have time to move more. My goal with this article is to help you do precisely that.

    Now, before we discuss how to move more in less time, let’s quickly define what movement is.

    Movement Defined

    For the sake of brevity and simplicity, I’ll define the movement like this:

    Movement is moving your whole body or part of your body in order to avoid being sedentary.

    So, according to this definition, a movement can be anything like walking, running, exercising, dancing, jumping, hanging, standing, cleaning your house, washing your dishes, playing with your children, stretching, tapping your legs, waving your hands, etc.

    In short, movement is anything but sitting or lying down.

    Moving is the Best Medicine

    Vilcabambans of Ecuador are some of the longest living folks in the world. And their secret? Walking! Listen to their mantra:

    “I have two doctors— my left leg and my right leg.”

    So, the first thing they do when they don’t feel well is to walk to see a friend.

    Moving is the best medicine, and I can list at least 100 reasons for it, but out of all of them, the following is the most profound reasons I know of: Your cell’s well-being is tied to movement! The more you move, the better they do. And if you wonder why you should take care of your cells, then you must know that you are a product of 15-70 trillion cells.

    In her absolutely fascinating book, Sitting Kills, Moving Heals, Joan Vernikos, Former Director of NASA’s Life Sciences (who was responsible for understanding how to improve the health and well-being of the NASA astronauts) describe this fact succinctly:

    “Telomeres, those little caps at the end of chromosomes that protect your DNA and allow healthy cell division, become shorter with age. They have therefore become a useful indicator of your state of health. Short telomeres have been linked to illness, such as cancer, cardiovascular disease, depression, shorter lifespan, and early death.

    The bad news is that research is now showing that people with a sedentary lifestyle also have shorter telomeres. As you might have guessed, physical activity helps you keep those telomeres longer, but only if it is moderate. More exercise is not better (i.e. exercising without recovering properly). People with high levels of physical activity had, in fact, shorter telomeres, just like those who sat too much. The message is clear: Be active, but don’t overdo it if you want to see those grandkids grow up.”

    Avoid Being “Active AND Sedentary”

    Most people I know can be divided into two groups:

    1. Group 1: No exercise at all. Spend most of the time sitting.
    2. Group 2: Do exercise 3-4 times a week (roughly 4-5 hours a week) and spend most of the remaining time sitting.

    Group 1 is clearly defined as sedentary. But how do you define group 2, who exercise a couple of times a week but spend an almost same number of hours sitting like the group 1?

    They are called active AND sedentary.

    And being active AND sedentary doesn’t serve you well over a long time. Research shows that exercising at the gym once a day does not counteract the effects of sitting for a significant part of the rest of the day.

    So, here is the takeaway lesson. While I encourage you to exercise at least four days a week, don’t just think that it’s enough. Hitting the gym once a day does not substitute for all-day spontaneous moving. And research shows that the body needs to be doing something all day long for a lean and healthy life.

    How to Incorporate More Movements

    Now, before you read further, can you think of a few ways through which you can incorporate a few more movements into your daily life?

    If you need help, here are a few ideas and how I implement them into my daily life:

    Use a height-adjustable standing desk 

    Height adjustable standing desks allow you to switch your position between standing and sitting. If you are desk worker, it’s a life-transformative piece of furniture. I’ve talked about its benefits in more detail in this article.

    I stand for 20 minutes and then sit for around 10 minutes.

    Setting the alarm to move every 30 minutes

    I usually set the alarm to move every 30 minutes. When the alarm goes off, I do one of these things:

    • 20-30 pushups
    • 10-12 burpees
    • Skip rope for a minute
    • 20 squats
    • 20 jumping jacks

    All it takes me is less than 1.5 minutes, but I’m super energised for another 30 minutes.

    If you can’t do any of these things, at least get up and walk a few meters from your desk, do some stretching and then sit back. It’s the prolonged sitting that is bad for you. You can avoid it by changing your posture every 30 minutes for a minute or two.

    Take the stairs

    Make walking up the stairs a fun game. I live on the fourth floor and I hardly ever take the lift. I make it a fun game to run on the stairs with my kids.

    Walking down the stairs is equally beneficial.

    Take a short walk

    Walking has a lot of benefits, but you don’t always need to walk for hours to reap those benefits. Even short, frequent walks count.

    Recent research shows that there are more benefits in walking a mile 3 times a day than walking all three miles at a time and then be sedentary for the rest of the day.

    Find OTMs

    OTMs? Yep, Opportunities to Move (Thanks, Michelle Seager, No Sweat).

    Regardless of your profession or life circumstances, you can always find new opportunities to move more.

    Here are few OTMs I’ve been practising lately:

    • While the kids play outside on the playground, I have the option to sit and watch or play with them. Doing some hanging, jumping and some pull-ups with kids is a new opportunity for me to move and get connected with my kids.
    • Shopping: Using a basket vs trolley. If I go shopping, I always like to carry a basket, rather than pushing the trolley. Carrying is again another OTM for me.

    Now, it’s your turn. I guess, now is the best time to brainstorm and define some of your new OTMs. Write them down and put them into action!

    Do the Chores

    Instead of watching TV, help your spouse/family with the house chores. You are not only getting rewards, you are also getting some quality movements to improve your health.

    Knowledge is Potential Power

    Knowledge isn’t power; it’s just potential power, i.e. the knowledge is only beneficial when it’s put into action.

    These ideas I’ve provided can transform the way you move from now onwards, as long as you put these things into practice.

    You’ll not only move more than ever, you’ll also feel more energetic and productive without spending significant time on your part.

  • Working out During Your Period? Here’s What You Need to Know

    Cramps, nausea, fatigue and bloating. While there might be many reasons to avoid working out during your period, this article will help you understand 1) why you don’t need to skip your workout during your period and 2) how working out during your period can help you achieve your fitness goals.

    Islam views menstruation as a natural process that normal, healthy women undergo for a certain time period every month.

    Although some religious activities and sexual intercourse are prohibited during this time, there are plenty of things that you can do. And one of those things is working out.

    “Working Out During Your Period? What?!”

    One of the most frequent questions I get asked from my female clients as well as many readers is “can I workout while on my period?

    This question is a result of misconceptions that have been passed down throughout time. The idea that exercising during menstruation is harmful is totally bogus. And I’m here to tell you, with the help of research, that not only should you be working out, but that exercising during your period can help you achieve your fitness goals! Nope, your period won’t set you back any longer!

    But before I discuss this, you’ve got to understand the basics of the menstrual cycle.

    Your Menstrual Cycle Explained

    First off, it’s important to note that your menstrual cycle can vary depending on many factors. Your cycle can range from anywhere between 21-35 days. However, an average cycle is around 28 days long and is broken down into two 14-day phases:

    1. Follicular phase – Day 1 through 14. During this time, the menstruation cycle begins on the first day of the follicular phase. After the period ends, on about day 12, the ovulation period starts (see the menstrual cycle wheel below for more information).
    2. Luteal phase – Day 15 through 28. This period is the period that follows the ovulation.

    As you can see from the wheel, once a month, the uterus grows a new, thickened lining that can hold a fertilised egg (Ovulation). When there is no fertilised egg to start a pregnancy, the uterus then sheds its lining. This shedding is the bleeding that occurs during your menses (at the end of the luteal phase and the beginning of the follicular phase).

    More About the Follicular Phase

    During the follicular stage, you tend to feel more energised. When the menstrual bleeding starts to taper (that is, around 5 days into your cycle), your oestrogen levels begin to rise; this increase in oestrogen makes you feel strong, social and energetic.

    What You Need to Know About the Luteal Phase

    During the luteal phase, Premenstrual Syndrome (PMS) starts to emerge. As part of PMS, you may start to have cramps (or pain) in your abdomen, back, or legs. You might even experience headaches, nausea and dizziness. This is also the stage when you may feel tense, emotional, or even angry.

    You might also experience physical changes such as gaining water weight and feeling bloated. This is because high oestrogen and progesterone affect the hormones that regulate the fluid in your body. Most women also find it difficult to perform well during exercises in the luteal phase. It’s perhaps due to the less energy available at this time.

    But there is one good thing that happens in the luteal phase: you burn more calories during this time. That’s because your metabolism increases by up to 10%.

    Working Out During Your Period

    No one argues anymore about whether or not women should be working out during their periods. Instead, the discussion’s shifted to whether or not exercising during menses affects athletic performance. Regarding the second issue, a study conducted by the University of British Columbia suggests that there aren’t any significant changes in athletic performance. In fact, we know that many female athletes set world records in their domains while performing during their menses.

    In a study of 20 active females, researchers found that women who strength trained during their low-hormone phase made greater strength gains. So, what might seem like a setback can actually push you forward.

    Since most of my readers and clients aren’t athletes, my focus in this article is about the average Muslim woman who wants to know whether working out is beneficial during her period.

    And the answer seems to be a resounding “yes!”. Exercise physiologist and nutrition scientist Dr Stacy T. Sims explains in her ground-breaking book Roar:

    “Ironically, when these hormones drop and a woman starts her period, that is the time when she is actually “most like a guy” in terms of what is known in sport physiology and nutrition research: Pain tolerance is increased; time to fatigue is increased; she has a lower core temperature and greater plasma volume, so she can sweat more and stay cool longer, and from a metabolic state, a woman’s body can tap into more carbohydrate stores and recover faster, as compared to the high hormone phase that leads into her period.”

    The Type of Workouts You Should Be Doing

    Physically, there is no reason why you should skip any of your scheduled workouts during your menses. If you’ve been doing strength training, continue doing it. If you’ve been running, continue doing it too.

    You shouldn’t be worrying about the workout that you’re doing if you’re not an athlete (as I’ve mentioned before) and are doing a moderate amount of exercise during your period.

    Here’s what I mean by a moderate amount of exercise:

    • 1 hour of strength training a day for 5 days a week, and
    • 30-60 minutes of aerobic exercises a day

    Your Period Shouldn’t Stop You!

    That being said, having your period can be physically and emotionally taxing. If you really can’t or don’t want to do any workouts, try low-intensity workouts such as walking, swimming, or yoga. They’ll help you alleviate some of the physical and emotional issues you face during your period.

    Regardless of the intensity of your workout, make sure you hydrate yourself well before and after working out.

  • How to Hack Your Metabolism and Burn More Fat

    Metabolism has become a misunderstood catchphrase. While it’s true that your metabolism can impact your weight-loss goals, there’s more to it that needs to be addressed. In this article, you’ll discover the truth about metabolism and how you can hack it to burn more fat!

    If you were to ask people for some of the reasons why they can’t lose weight, some people would say it’s because they have a “slow metabolism.” They’d also tell you that increasing the “speed” of their metabolism would help them burn more calories and lose weight faster.

    But before I address these concerns, you need to know what metabolism is and how you can increase your metabolism so that you can burn more fat.

    What is Metabolism?

    Metabolism refers to the sum total of hundreds of biochemical reactions that are going on in your body. Put in simple terms, this means that metabolism is a collection of these diverse reactions.

    Based on this definition, any of the following scenarios can be referred as metabolic processes:

    • Your body converts food into energy
    • Your body releases hormones to regulate the body
    • You are moving your muscles to strengthen or tone your body

    In short, your metabolism is designed to keep you alive. So, it’s in the best interest of your metabolism to regulate the things that occur inside your body based on external information. Think of it as a thermostat: when it’s cold outside, the temperature rises inside your house and helps keep you warm. And your metabolism functions in a similar way.

    Resting Metabolic Rate (RMR)

    To hack your metabolism, you’ve got to first understand what your resting metabolic rate (RMR) is.

    RMR refers to the number of calories your body burns during a 24-hour period in order to maintain your vital functions such as breathing, circulating blood, growing and repairing cells. Around 70% of the energy your body expends goes towards this! Yep, keeping us alive is hard work!

    But, it’s important to note that the percentage of RMR can differ from person to person. Some people’s bodies use up more calories to perform these basic metabolic processes compared to other people.

    Here are some factors that impact your metabolic rate:

    Age: If you don’t continue to workout, you’ll lose muscles as you age. As your muscle mass decreases, your body fat percentage increases. This then decreases your metabolic rate.

    Body size and composition: The more lean body mass you have, the higher the metabolic rate. So a muscular, lean person who is 90kg has a higher metabolic rate than a soft 90kg obese person.

    Gender: By default, men have more muscle mass than women. Hence, men have a higher metabolic rate than women.

    Extreme dieting: When you cut down your calories drastically to lose weight, your metabolic rate goes down. From the evolutionary perspective, your body presumes that you are going through a famine and it tries to do the same metabolic activities with fewer calories in order to keep you alive. So cutting calories drastically decreases your metabolic rate.

    Increasing Your Metabolic Efficiency

    Although we just went over the different factors that affect one’s metabolic rate, we see the recurring idea that muscle mass plays an important role in all these factors. The higher muscle mass you have, the higher the metabolic rate.

    So, if you want to burn more body fat by hacking your metabolic rate, then you need to seriously consider building more muscle mass, regardless of your age, gender and body size.

    And here are the three most important things you need to consider if you want to build more muscle mass that you’re lean and healthy:

    1. Eat more protein: Proteins are building blocks of your body. They build and repair your muscle tissues. So, there’s no way you can increase your lean muscle mass without sufficient protein.
    2. Lift weights: Make sure that you lift weights or do body weight exercises at least 3 times a week. Strength training should always be part of your workout routine.
    3. Ditch your chair and move around: Incorporate a lot of daily activities to your routine. Sit less and move more. Try walking up the stairs instead of taking an elevator, going for walk when you’d rather sit and watch a show on Netflix, or playing your kids (if you’re a parent).

    Strengthening Your Body = A Leaner, Healthier Body

    The key takeaway then is that yes, your weight loss goals are impacted by your metabolism. But you have the power to change your metabolism and thereby, change your life.

    If you’d like to discover the strategies that will help you get the body that you’ve always wanted, then sign up for my Online Coaching Program. I’ll not only help you get a fabulous and healthy body, but I’ll also use the Quran and Sunnah, science, and psychology to help you transform your life. It’s not just about your body; it’s about you!

  • How these Myths Can Sabotage Your Weight-loss Goals

    When it comes to health and fitness, there is an abundance of myths out there. These myths are not only confusing but can also sabotage your fitness goals. So in today’s article, I would like to debunk the four most popular fitness myths so that you can act based on scientific facts to achieve your weight-loss goals.

    As a nutrition and fitness coach, I am asked many questions. And some of these questions deal with popular myths. I sincerely hope this article will shed some light and help you to differentiate between myths and facts.

    Myth #1 – 30 minutes of walking for 3 times every week helps to improve overall health

    We are repeatedly told that merely walking for 30 minutes, 3 times a week is all we need to improve our health. This amount of activity neither improves your health nor your body composition.

    Emerging research from the exercise world gives us a different number. So, if you are truly interested in improving your health, you should shoot for a minimum of 30 minutes of exercise every day. And if you want to lose weight and improve your body composition, you need roughly around 60 minutes of exercise most of the days.

    Having said that, the type of exercise you choose to do has a big impact on your results. For instance, the benefits you reap from a 10-minutes high-intensity interval training (HIIT) is almost equal to 100 minutes of walking. So if you want to improve your health and body composition, you need to incorporate more HIIT and strength workouts to your workout routine.

    Now, if you are wondering how you are going to find 30-60 minutes a day, then it’s important I debunk the second myth.

    Myth #2: Exercise at least 30 minutes in one go to get a health benefit

    This myth is one of the main reasons why many people abandon exercise altogether. They think they don’t have time to do 30 minutes in one go and hence abandon exercise altogether. If you don’t have time to complete all your workouts in one go, you can split it into three 10-minutes sessions and reap the same or even more benefits from your workouts.

    And if walking is the only exercise you do, you can split your walking sessions too. Recent research from the University of Otago, New Zealand suggest that a mere 10 minutes short, vigorous walk after each meal (three times a day) may be even more beneficial than just a 30 minutes stroll.

    While 30 minutes of exercise a day may be enough to keep up your general health, you’ll still need to get more moderate to vigorous exercise most days of the week if you’re trying to lose weight.

    Myth #3: Aerobic exercise is the best for fat loss

    What’s the first thing that comes to your mind when I talk about exercise? Most probably, a picture of someone jogging!

    Jogging is a great aerobic exercise that has many therapeutic and health benefits. However, jogging (or any other aerobic activities) isn’t the best kind of exercise for fat loss. Perhaps you need to understand energy expenditure and afterburn effect in order to comprehend this statement fully.

    From breathing to sleeping, all your activities require energy. When you exercise, this energy requirement goes up, and your body burns your fat to provide energy for the cells. Thereby making exercise an excellent way to shed some weight.

    Did you know that your body continues to burn calories even after you stop working out? In scientific terminology, we call this EPOC, excess post-exercise oxygen consumption, which is commonly known as “afterburn effect”.

    You burn a higher % of fat per minute during an aerobic activity. However, the afterburn effect of traditional aerobic activities is minimal.

    However, if you do the same aerobic exercise (e.g. Jogging) in a vigorous form (e.g. Sprinting) your afterburn effect is high, i.e., your body will continue to burn more calories even after you stop exercising.

    So, if you want to lose weight, the best exercise for you isn’t the one that burns calories only during an activity (such as aerobic exercise), but also after you stop that activity, i.e., an activity that has a high afterburn effect. HIIT and strength exercises have a high afterburn effect.

    That’s why the “best” exercise for fat loss is a combination of strength training, high-intensity interval exercise, and a moderate amount of aerobic exercise.

    Myth #4: Strength exercises make women bulky

    One of the most frequent questions I get from my female clients is this:

    “Don’t I become bulky, if I do strength exercise?”

    The fact is, women won’t bulk up by lifting weights or doing any other strength exercises. They are less physiologically prone to bulking up because they have less muscle tissue and produce lower levels of testosterone hormones than men. Testosterone is a primary hormonal driver of muscle growth.

  • Interval Walking: How To Gain More in Less Time

    Walking is the best medicine! It’s not only convenient; it’s also comfortable to do for most people. In this article, I’m presenting a short and simple interval walking protocol so that you can do it regardless of your location or schedule!

    You’ve probably heard about the latest buzzword HIIT (pronounced “hit”). HIIT- High-Intensity Interval Training – involves a set of short high-intensity bursts separated by periods of low-intensity recovery time.

    In recent years, this type of exercise has been gaining ground, and more and more studies testify to the benefits of doing interval training for general health and weight loss.

    Health Benefits of HIIT

    One of the biggest advantages of HIIT is that it provides most benefit from exercise in the least amount of time.

    The health benefits you can achieve with HIIT are pretty remarkable. You certainly get more bang for your bucks! Here are some important health benefits of HIIT:

    • Improves your blood glucose level
    • Supercharges your fat-burning
    • Boosts your metabolism
    • Improves your cardiovascular fitness

    However, HIIT isn’t for everyone. If you aren’t already exercising and in a decent shape, you may find it difficult to stick to such  training method.

    So, if you aren’t into exercise, at least harness the power of interval walking to improve your health.

    Enter into Interval Walking

    If you are a newbie to HIIT or to exercise in general, I would strongly suggest you starting with the following “interval walking” protocol. It’s easy, but its benefits are amazing.

    Dr Gibala, who is world’s foremost authority on HIIT mentions in his ground-breaking book “The One Minute Workout” about the research related to interval walking.

    He says, “compared with walking at a steady pace, the interval-based routine has been shown to result in much larger improvements in cardiorespiratory fitness (an incredible 25% increase) and much larger decreases in blood pressure (6% reduction in systolic blood pressure) for those who are out of shape.

    Incredible huh? So without further ado, here is how you can practice interval walking.

    Total time investment: 26 minutes

    How often: You may do this every day or at least four times a week

    1. Warm up by walking for 2 minutes
    2. After your warm up, walk as fast as you can without jogging for the next 3 minutes. You should be breathing deeply and be able to maintain a conversation with some difficulty (High-Intensity)
    3. For the next 3 minutes, decrease your intensity and walk at a leisurely pace (Low-Intensity)
    4. Repeat steps 2 to 3 for at least four times

    Interval Timer App

    It’s advisable to install an interval timer app to do this interval walking. An app helps you track the minutes correctly.

    Just Google “interval timer app” and you’ll come across countless free and paid apps.

    These two are my favourite interval timer apps:

  • How to Strengthen Your Core With Plank Exercises

    Chiselled abs and a flat belly aren’t just achieved with complicated workouts at the gym; you can also get a strong core with simple exercises. This article shows you how you can strengthen your core with plank exercises.

    When I was overweight, I used to have a bulging tummy. It used to bug me for a long time. But it started to become a real issue when I heard the following story from the life of Umar (RA):

    One day, a man with a big belly came to Umar bin Al-Khattab (RA). Umar, being who he is, asked the man about his belly, “What is this?”.

    The man proudly replied, “It’s a blessing from Allah!”.

    Umar said, “No, indeed, it’s a punishment from Allah!”1

    This story sounds simple, but it’s not. The man’s belly isn’t a sign of wealth like he thinks it is. It’s an indication of his lifestyle: extravagant and careless. His belly shows that he not only doesn’t care about others, but also about himself.

    Needless to say, this story had a big impact on me. I started working hard to get rid of my tummy. I also started to pray to Allah for forgiveness. I truly felt that it was kind of a punishment from Allah (SWT).

    Besides the spiritual and cosmetic reasons to getting rid of belly fat, visceral fat is the most dangerous type of fat. It’s the underlining cause of many types of diseases.

    So, I’d like to share with you how planks helped me lose my belly fat.

    But before I begin, I need to make a big disclaimer. No single exercise can simply turn your tummy into a flat one. Along with nutrition and lifestyle changes, you need to have a regular exercise regimen. But what adding the plank to your daily routine will do is have an impact, not just on your tummy, but also on your overall physique.

    What’s a Plank and Why Is It Effective?

    A plank is a simple and easy bodyweight exercise; anyone can do it. So regardless of your age, gender or location, you can start doing this exercise every day.

    They’re also some of the most effective exercises you can do to improve your core muscle groups. And research shows that abdominal muscles are better trained with integrated core exercises such as planks than with popular isolation exercises like sit-ups and crunches.

    Definition of Core Muscles

    Many people believe that the core muscle group comprises of just the four, six, or eight muscles that are visible in the stomach region. But your core includes the abdominals, lower back and hip muscles as well!

    Unlike sit-ups and crunches, planks not only improve your core, but they also improve your performance, posture and flexibility.

    4 Remarkable Benefits of Plank Exercises

    Here are four remarkable reasons to add planks to your daily workout regimen.

    #1. Planks strengthen your core

    The standard plank is one of the few workouts that engages all your major core muscle groups. When you do a plank, you’re in fact training a whole lot of major muscle groups, such as:

    • Neck
    • Shoulders
    • Biceps
    • Chest
    • Abs
    • Lower back
    • Gluts
    • Thighs, and
    • Calves

    So, working out those muscles groups regularly leads to a strong core. And a strong core translates to a toned belly.

    #2. Planks reduce back pain

    The modern day working environment is a key cause of back pain. Most office workers sit all day long and with a bad posture. And this, of course, is a recipe for lower-back pain.

    Apart from your regular workout plan, you need to include core-strengthening exercises like planks to reduce back pain.

    They almost magically reduce lower back pain because upper and lower back muscles are also trained when you engage in planks.

    #3. Planks improve your posture

    Another aspect that ties in with back pain is, as I’ve mentioned, posture. A visible result of your strengthened core is better posture. In fact, you can identify a person’s core strength just by looking at his or her posture.

    Improved posture also benefits you in your day-to-day life because you’ll find it easier to sit or stand straighter.

    And the benefit of improved posture doesn’t end there. There are many studies that confirm that your body posture even impacts your memory, mood and confidence! 12

    #4. Planks improve your flexibility

    Since planks train and stretch a lot of major muscle groups, you’re also improving your flexibility.

    As you become more flexible, you’ll also have better coordination and body movements. Your body won’t feel as stiff, and you’ll feel more comfortable.

    How to Do a Standard Plank

    There are tons of different planks, but the focus of this article is the standard plank. Please see the video below. It provides an in-depth illustration of a plank. If you’re a beginner, follow the recommended repetition as explained in the video.

    Measure Your Core Strength

    The plank exercise is an easy way to measure your core strength. If you can hold the plank position for at least three minutes without allowing your hips to raise or dip, it means your core strength is excellent.

    If you can’t even hold it for two minutes, it’s an indication that you may carry too much weight around your waist and that it’s time to get rid of your excess body fat.

    1 Mu’jum ash-Shuyookh of as-Subki, vol. 1, p. 531