I have never met anyone who set out to accomplish something pretty significant and achieved it with a few mighty efforts. Rather, for most to accomplish something of significance takes time, planning, work ethic, and a systematic approach.
Consider the personal growth, knowledge acquisition, and skill development that only comes from putting in the time, solving the problems, working the strategies, etc. Experiencing a real sense of accomplishment through our successful personal efforts builds and strengthens our confidence and self-esteem and increases our capacity to do more.
Not that the tasks require less skill or execution, but rather that our ability to accomplish the required tasks is enhanced in a line-upon-line manner.
A Principle with a Promise to Enhance Our Overall Health
This principle is sometimes referred to as the principle of summation, or the additive effect of multiple small tasks or efforts, combining to produce significant results. The wonderful thing is that this approach allows us to grow during the process and become more and more capable of achieving success.
The principle of summation can be applied to virtually any aspect of life or in accomplishing any goal or task with which we may engage. One aspect I personally like about this principle is that it requires me to be creative in looking for multiple ways during the course of a day to “sneak in small things” whenever and wherever I can – planned and scheduled or on the fly.
Further, it can be fun and rewarding along the way and those who apply this will assuredly experience (see and feel) how their bodies will adapt to the many small interventions/challenges that are undertaken, and transition in wonderful ways during the process to become a healthier body, capable of doing so much more.
Let us look at some examples of the principle of summation as it applies to making improvements to our bodies.
A Few Nutrition Examples
Dining Out – Share a Meal
As an aspect of portion control, purposefully splitting a meal at a restaurant reduces our caloric intake as well as the cost of eating out, which has gone up significantly in these times of inflation. In addition, consider skipping additional calories of a drink by drinking water.
Eat at Scheduled Times and Include Protein with Each Meal
Eating at scheduled times helps us to avoid snacking throughout the day. Repetitive snacking keeps blood sugar levels elevated and the associated insulin release and is a contributing factor that increases our risk of developing insulin resistance. Our body needs time to lower its blood sugar levels so the insulin can come down, which lowers at a slower rate than does blood sugar.
Most meals seem to contain many carbohydrates, which can trigger a significant rise in blood sugar levels and the associated insulin response. Including a lean protein with what you consume can help level out the insulin response and is one of the recommended interventions to help minimize, or when combined with other relevant interventions overtime, even eliminate insulin resistance. Further, protein helps keep you feeling full for a longer period.
Every metabolic process in the body takes place in a fluid medium. Good fluid intake helps control appetite, supports and protects cartilage and other connective tissues, and helps to control inflammatory conditions.
Consume water regularly throughout the day, beginning before breakfast and before each meal, and every 20 minutes throughout the day if possible. A water bottle is a handy tool to help ensure that you drink every 20 minutes or so. What trigger will you use to remind you to drink your water?
Simply reducing even a little bit the number of total calories consumed is associated with reducing key pathological mechanisms associated with atherosclerosis and heart disease that take place in the hours following a meal. This is known as the post-prandial response and is a topic for a future discussion.
A Few Fitness Examples
Push-ups are an excellent exercise to work the major muscle groups of the upper body. Find ways to sneak them into your busy schedule. My personal application is to perform a set of push-ups to failure the first thing in the morning when I get out of bed after a brief warm up. I then perform another set just before eating breakfast.
Therefore, before I even leave the house for work, I have completed two sets of push-ups to exhaustion. Of course, there are varying types of “push-ups” that range in level of difficulty from which to choose. How could you build this into your schedule?
Whether you perform body weight squats or goblet squats (performed by holding a dumbbell with your hands in cupping form) it is a great exercise for working major muscle groups of the lower body.
Here again, all you need to perform this exercise is your body, maybe a dumbbell, and can be performed at home, the office, etc. – sneaking a set in whenever you can with a goal to perform a given number of reps by a specific time.
Note: The number of reps you perform will be unique to you but should challenge your muscles to complete the set. There is a growing body of evidence that suggests that performing even one set of reps to exhaustion provides a better stimulus for muscle growth and strength development than performing two sets with enough strength to perform more reps when completed.
Walking is our most natural form of transportation. Increasing the number of steps taken in a day can be a very helpful intervention for cardio fitness. When you combine this with research findings that show that sitting too long at a time (>45 min) can produce deleterious effects to the cardiovascular system, our motivation should be high to get up and move. Moreover, why not include some stairs in your walk about.
Consider setting an alarm that reminds you when you have sat 45 minutes. When it goes off, get up and go for a short walk around. Of course, slight modifications to the 45-minute schedule may be required for different circumstances, but the effort to get up and move will get your blood circulating more efficiently providing the stimulus to keep the vessels working properly in their release of nitric oxide for vasodilation and proper functioning.
The principle of summation encourages us to consistently be looking for ways to do little things that when added together will produce significant results towards reaching our goals. I believe being anxiously engaged in applying this principle will help us live more intentionally and will ultimately yield surprising results in how we look and feel while allowing us to go and do more.
What line-upon-line, small things interventions will you implement in your quest to enhance your overall health and to have a more meaningful life?