Biohacking Tips That are Accessible, Inexpensive, and Actually Work
Disclaimer: this article is not medical advice. Please speak to your healthcare provider or practitioner about any health concerns.
If you’ve been following fitness and lifestyle trends over the past couple of years (and if you’re reading this article, you probably have been), you’ve no doubt heard of ‘biohacking’. It’s a buzzword that seems to be only growing in popularity, but what does it mean, really?
Well, I’ll save you the internet search. Biohacking is a broad term to describe the process of improving one’s health and performance through lifestyle, which includes nutrition, exercise, and other more mind-based interventions. In a recent article, Forbes calls it “do-it-yourself biology”.
The term ‘biohacking’ actually encompasses a massive amount of health recommendations, many of which have been around since ancient times, such as meditation and certain forms of exercise. Today, biohacking ‘experts’ are recommending ice baths, intermittent fasting, supplements, and more. Biohackers have come under fire for offering DIY gene-editing kits. From the banal to the extreme, there’s a biohack for every health concern, every goal, and every body!
You’re not alone if you find it all overwhelming. For years, I was a disciple of biohacking, though I never used the word. Biohacking seemed like a way of self-empowerment over my own health and lifestyle. Soon, though, I was overwhelmed by the sheer amount of ‘expert recommendations’ and things that I felt I needed to do to be healthy and live my ‘best life’. And many of these interventions were too expensive, inaccessible, and time-consuming. Not everything is for everyone, I realised.
That being said, there are many excellent takeaways to be gained from the biohacking craze that are inexpensive, accessible, and not time-consuming. I’ve learned that small modifications can yield amazing results. I’ve compiled a list below of some of the biohacking interventions that I truly believe in and that have the science to back them up. You’re probably already doing some of them!
This is kind of a joke, but not really. You know what you need to do, Infofit fam! Get moving! Hire a personal trainer!
I’ll be the first to admit, I am not the best meditator. But when I’m consistent with my practice, I can definitely see a positive change in my energy, my stress levels, and my sleep quality.
That being said, meditation may not be for everyone and for every lifestyle, and that’s okay. What is for everyone (yes, including you!), is mindfulness. Mindfulness is the practice of being present, fully in your body and in the moment, in any given situation. Mindfulness encourages you to greater awareness of your thoughts and reactions, to notice but not to judge your internal and external world.
The benefits are numerous and holistic–and it’s totally free! Reduced stress, improved mood and focus, improved blood pressure are just some of the many positive changes you can expect to see through mindfulness practice. To learn more about mindfulness, and how to get started, Mindful.org has created a helpful mindfulness beginners guide that you can find here. Try a mindfulness practice for just 10 minutes a day and see how much can change for the better. Or join Infofit’s weekly guided meditation group.
- Time outdoors
You probably already know that getting outside, even briefly, can greatly improve your mental and physical health. Spending time in nature, as opposed to in an urban landscape, is especially beneficial; one study found that a walk in nature “decreased anxiety, rumination, and negative affect, and preservation of positive affect” and also “increased working memory performance.”
- Soak up the sunshine
Sunlight, as well, has multiple positive benefits. Besides being the main source of vitamin D, getting adequate sun exposure can help to improve mood, balance hormones, and regulate your circadian rhythm so that you sleep better at night and enjoy more energy during the day.
Unfortunately, in Vancouver, sunlight can be hard to come by during the winter months. In this case, a SAD light might be just the ticket. These lights can be a little pricey but if you struggle with mood, energy, and getting adequate rest due to a lack of sunlight, they are well worth the price tag. Vitamin D, as well, is one of the least expensive and most available supplements on the market; and, honestly, if you live in Canada, you should probably already be supplementing.
How much water one needs for optimal health changes from person to person. But the experts at the Harvard School of Health outline the absolute importance of drinking enough water, which is crucial for “regulating body temperature, keeping joints lubricated, preventing infections, delivering nutrients to cells, and keeping organs functioning properly.” Adequate levels of hydration are also linked to improved sleep quality, cognition, and mood.
The same article recommends 11 cups of water for women a day, and 16 cups for men. And not all of our sources need to come from plain drinking water–fruits and vegetables often have lots of water. This may be obvious but try and steer clear of sugar-laden beverages to meet your hydration needs, which can do more harm than good.
Interestingly, and happily, for all those coffee fiends out there, experts are starting to change their tune on caffeinated beverages! The British Dietetic Association states that the “mild dehydrating effect” of caffeinated drinks are outweighed by the benefits, as the “fluid levels in the body are improved.” Happy day!
The only word of caution when drinking fluids: try and avoid drinking your water at mealtime. It might seem counterintuitive, but too much liquid can have a dampening effect on our stomach’s natural enzymes and interfere with our digestive process.
- Reduce your screen time
I struggle with this one–my job involves looking at a computer all day, and when I’m not on a computer, I’m on my phone, checking emails and responding to messages. This is a common issue of modern day life, though studies done with children and adolescents have shown screen time to have deleterious effects on our health; “Screen time…has been negatively associated with the development of physical and cognitive abilities, and positively associated with obesity, sleep problems, depression and anxiety.” So, how do we reduce our exposure to screens when our modern life demands that we be on our phones and computers?
One thing you can do to help your eyes, and also your energy levels and circadian rhythm, is change the settings on your computer or phone to reduce blue light, especially in the evening. Most new devices have an option in its settings to change the type of light it emits, from blue to red. There are many apps, such as Digital Wellbeing and Social Fever, that can be used to help manage your time on devices.
Another study found that brief and frequent diversions to be incredibly helpful in retaining focus and attention. If possible, take these micro-breaks away from your computer, which will have the added benefit of giving your eyes a rest.
- Don’t be afraid to stand up!
You’ve probably heard the fun new catchphrase, “Sitting is the new smoking!”. While this is probably (definitely) not true, it is true that sedentary lifestyles do have deleterious effects on our health. So, how can we counteract this?
Recently, there has been an influx of studies that discuss the science of taking breaks during work. When to take them, how to take them, how long they should be, etc. If you have a job that demands that you sit in front of a computer for eight hours at a time, don’t be afraid to take breaks! One study found that standing up and walking around for three minutes every 30 minutes can help to keep at bay the health concerns related to sitting for long periods of time, such as high blood sugar and high cholesterol.
There you go, Infofit fam! We hope you enjoyed these inexpensive, accessible, and effective biohacks. Let us know if you try any of them and if you have any of your own biohacking recommendations.
Wishing you all the best on your journey to optimum health!
Written by Theresa Faulder, Master’s in English, Certified Personal Trainer and Infofit fitness blog writer.