Sports Massage for Recovery & Prehabilitation

recovery active rest training fitness massage sports biofit

This post first appeared on my Biofit website here.

The popularity of sports massage amongst the fitness community is no surprise - who doesn’t enjoy an hour of such ‘indulgent’ bodywork, whether it be dry or with oil, indulgent or functional? 

Yes, it’s a great way to relax and that in itself can be of immense value for some who struggle to switch off, but will massage actually help your body recover faster and come back stronger? Should it be part of a proactive injury prevention / prehab strategy for active individuals asking a lot from their bodies?

Our answer is a resounding ‘yes’ but not necessarily for the physical benefits alone…

first, what exactly is ‘sports massage’?

Sports massage is a generic term for bodywork performed on active individuals to support recovery and prevent injury, it has a more functional objective than say aromatherapy massage that uses essential oils and less of the techniques listed below as key differentiators of sports massage. 

Physiotherapists and qualified massage therapists generally combine some combination of the following movements in each session:[1][2]

Effleurage

Effleurage is one of the most common techniques in sports massage.  The therapist uses his or her hand to stroke the length of a muscle with varying pressure and speed.

Petrissage 

Petrissage is akin to kneading dough - the practitioner pulls the muscle up from the body, gently squeezes it, releases, and repeats.

Tapotement

As the name suggests, tapotement involves repeatedly tapping or gently striking the muscle. 

Friction massage

The therapist firmly presses his or her fingertips into the skin and pushes in strokes parallel or perpendicular to the muscle fibres.  

Vibration

Vibration shakes the target region with a goal of relaxing the muscles and promoting circulation.

how does this type of massage work?

Experts theorize that the compressive action of massage increases blood and lymph flow. These fluids carry lactate and other exercise metabolites linked to soreness and fatigue away from the muscles and eventually out of the body.[3

Furthermore, faster flow can deliver nutrients to damaged muscle cells more quickly and possibly speed up natural repair.

the evidence for sports massage

High-quality studies of sports massage for recovery are surprisingly few in number, and results are conflicting. Efficacy depends on therapist skill, frequency and timing of treatment as well as the precise techniques used.  

One experiment with 14 untrained male participants looked at the effect of a 30-minute sports massage (effleurage and petrissage) two hours after exercise compared to rest. Researchers assessed muscle soreness and creatine kinase, a marker for muscle damage, 8, 24, 48, 72, 96, and 120 hours later. Muscle soreness was reduced in the massage group and creatine kinase levels were lower, suggesting faster recovery.[4]

A randomised, crossover study investigated the effect of sports massage on muscle fatigue. Thirteen male and seven female participants exercised to fatigue, followed by either a six-minute massage or rest. They again exercised to fatigue and repeated the trial a few days later with the alternative condition (rest or massage). Researchers found that performance significantly improved after massage compared to rest.[5]

beyond physical benefits - mental wellbeing

More meaningful than a marginally faster rate of muscle cell repair is the effect massage has on mental wellbeing.

Intensive physical training invites stress and performance anxiety, taking a serious toll on a person’s mental health, and consequently, physical performance.

Regular massage can counteract these problems - research credits sports massage with improvements in mood, perception of recovery, and blood pressure, a marker for stress.[2]  

massage as a primal need

Finally, there is the primal human instinct to crave for touch and contact with another human in a non-sexual manner. This is harder to quantify but no less powerful a reason to explore your own path to a regular massage practice.

For someone training 3-5 times per week, we would recommend a monthly visit to the massage table, or every six weeks, budget dependent.

References

[1] https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Albert_Moraska/publication/7535422

[2] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2953308

[3] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15114265

[4] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/8148868

[5] https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1353611705800484 



10 ways to add biophilic design to your home, office, or gym (part 2)

biofilico biophilic casa interni interiors biophilia

If you want your interior to truly look and feel its best, incorporating biophilic design elements is a tried-and-true method to add not just soul but wellness benefits to an interior.

By implementing a few of these key biophilic design strategies when designing your home, office, or gym you can create a space that prioritizes personal well-being—and looks aesthetically pleasing while doing so - while also respecting the planet. Here’s how:

Harness Nature’s Aromas

We discussed appealing to multiple senses in 10 Ways to Add Biophilic Design to Your Home, Office, or Gym (Part 1), and this should undoubtedly extend to scent too.

Incorporating certain aromas into a space is a simple way to extend the user experience and influence not just the tone of the room visually but also how its users feel whilst in it.

Forget synthetic fragrances though, we keep it clean with organic essential oils such as pine, cedar or lavender, preferably diffused into the air for 30-60 mins straight. This is especially beneficial first thing in the morning and last thing at night, while taking a relaxing bath or while concentrating on a writing or work task.

Purify the Indoor Air

Urban living comes with its benefits, sure but one of the inarguable downfalls is the reduced air quality, especially in certain cities such as Barcelona for example where the municipality struggles to keep pace.

Keep lungs happy and healthy by deploying an air purifier—preferably one with a HEPA filter. Dyson Air Cool is our model of choice for our bedroom in Casa Biofilico for example.

This helps restore air to its natural state by removing pollutants that off gas from furniture or, more likely, drift in from the streets outside. Incorporating a few plants can also assist with this goal although you’ll need to go big on quantities and choose the right species, and even then we still recommend using an air purifier. Take no prisoners on this front!

Go Organic on your Materials

Using organic material can lessen the presence of harmful chemicals that are regularly found in building materials and furniture—think benzene, formaldehyde, and trichloroethylene. Yes, this is a thing.

While plants and purifiers are a great method to filter the pollutants that get in, going organic is a preventative measure that will help ensure their presence is minimal from the get-go. Rather like taking your shoes off before entering a home so as not to bring in the dirt from outside. Joined-up thinking is the way to win this battle.

biophilic biofilico biophilia design diseno

A Natural Neutral Palette

The color scheme is arguably one of the biggest influencers of the mood that an interior elicits. While bright tones can add energy, neutrals will help any commercial or residential room feel grounded in nature.

Try opting for colors that you often see in the wilderness, like browns, beiges, and greens. Still looking for a pop of bright color? Try a dash of sunshine yellow a bright sky blue.

Welcome ‘Wabi-Sabi’

Nature is never about perfection, so why should your interior design be? Harness the intrigue and natural beauty that imperfection can bring and integrate pieces into your design that have variations in the finish or maybe even a couple of chips or cracks.

Wabi-Sabi a Japanese concept common among vintage and handmade products, so look for furniture, crockery sets, and pottery with such ‘imperfections’.

These actionable, biophilic design strategies can help propel any home, office, or gym design in the right direction. Whether you implement a few or all 10, both your interior and health will thank you!

Read 5 more strategies in Biophilic Design Guide (Part1)



Five Best Examples of Biophilic Design

This post first appeared on my Biofilico website here

From Seattle to Scotland, the best biophilic design examples can be found in any variety of settings but they all have one thing in common - interiors that use natural materials, plants, lighting and other sensory design elements to give the user an experience energizes, refreshes, and connects them to nature. 

Here are our top five picks of the moment: 

1 hotel biophilic design

1 Hotels, New York & Miami

In a city packed with traffic, endless high rises, and lots of commotion, 1 Hotels is an urban retreat inspired by nature. Outside you will find walls brimming with lush greenery, while inside interspersed plants and interiors crafted using reclaimed materials promote a warm aesthetic. This biophilic experience doesn’t just extend to this hotel’s decor though, they offer farm-to-fork food in their dining room and even a daily fresh fruit stand in the lobby.

amazon the spheres seattle

The Spheres, Seattle (above)

The Spheres are home to 40,000 plants from 30 different countries, including a variety of living walls that account for over 4,000 square feet of vegetated surface. This Amazon building aims to connect employees and visitors with a direct link to nature in an urban setting— and with their glass dome that lets in an abundance of natural light and array of greenery, we think they delivered on their promise, and then some!

lily jencks biophilis design

Ruins Studio, Scotland (above)

Ruins Studio garnered many awards the year after its competition—and for good reason. Designed by Lily Jencks Studio, NDA and Savills-Smiths Gore this unique structure was built inside a ruin. The original stone was kept intact, now being used as a natural, textural shell. It creates a strong contrast to the smoother, contemporary build nestled inside. 

wardian biophilic design

The Wardian, London  (above)

Whether relaxing in the sky lounge crafted with extra high ceilings, expansive trees, and floor-to-ceiling windows or taking a dip in the swimming pool immersed in a lush, natural landscape, it’s easy to forget that you are in the bustling metropolis of London when you are at The Wardian. While this project is still under construction, it is already proving itself to be an iconic biophilic design case study. We created a pop-up Vitamin Nature wellness space for the developer EcoWorld Ballymore in 2018, the results from that research study can be found online here.

second home biophilia

Second Home, Lisbon  (above)

While Second Home has many locations, the one in Lisbon is truly a biophilic haven with its abundance of light and over 1000 plants. Both Biofit & Biofilico were effectively based there for the formative first year or two of the business in fact!

This shared workspace is ideal for teams of 1 to 100 that need a workspace and want to experience an extra boost of creativity, happiness, and productivity through the power of Vitamin Nature. Wellness isn’t just built into their interior though, they also practice what they preach by offering members yoga classes, surf trips, and educational and cultural seminars

biofit biophilia biofilico biophilic design gym fitness health

Karolinska Institutet gym by Biofit, Stockholm

And one more for luck... we couldn't resist adding in our tiny biophilic gym at the Karolinska Institutet medical university, just to show that not all these projects need to be large-scale! We created a space with maximum health benefits by implementing a design that consists of both direct and indirect biophilia, including muraled walls, circadian lighting, air-purifying plants, and 100% sustainable materials. Students of the medical university are free to use the space whenever they choose and regular classes provide extra incentives for those in need of a break from their research studies.

10 Ways to Add Biophilic Design to Your Home, Office, or Gym (Part 1)

biophilic design in the home, office or gym

An interior created with biophilic design elements will not only benefit from the uplifting aesthetics these features bring, users may also experience a tangible boost to their personal wellbeing. The concept can be applied to a home, gym or office. Here is the first half of our 10-point guide on integrating biophilic design strategies into your own lives:  

Let there be Plants!

We’ll start with an obvious one; plants are a quick way to incorporate direct biophilia into any interior. This can be as simple as a few potted plants or as expansive as a vertical garden wall. To reap the most benefits from this easy addition, aim for plants that will clean the air, as well as please the eye. 

Why stop there though when there are terrariums, aquascapes, domestic animals and countless other ways to bring nature into the built environment.

Use Indirect Biophilia

When plants and other direct biophilic elements aren’t available, look to what is termed indirect biophilia. Photos, murals, and illustrations of nature, animals, and plants are a great way to ground your space in nature, plus these strategies have stress-reducing properties.

Studies have shown that even indirect biophilia—using elements that are merely representational—still holds an arsenal of benefits similar to direct biophilia. 

Use Natural Materials

The materials you choose for an interior space will not only influence the final ambiance but also impact the users’ health and wellness. Opting for materials that are natural and sustainable will help ensure that both a room’s users and the planet stay healthy. Good materials to consider include FSC wood, bamboo, linen, cork, and ceramic. Do away with plastic completely.

Light It Up

Implementing a circadian lighting system that follows the body’s natural rhythm can help improve both productivity by day and sleep by night.

Fill your space with natural light whenever possible but when the sun’s rays aren’t available, find a lighting system that uses blue-white tones in the middle of the day, and amber tones early and late. The Philips HUE system does a decent job of this.

Mimic Nature’s Voice

Serious biophilic design appeals to all the senses, including sound. Possibly one of the most soothing things about being immersed in nature is the soft sound of birds, running water and the rustling of trees.

The great news is that you can easily recreate this sensation by playing nature sounds, which are widely available and come in an array of themes and compositions. 

These are just a few of the simple biophilic design strategies that you can start implementing today, and by using just a few of the elements mentioned above you can be on your way to a healthier and happier interior.

Need more advice? Check out more biophilic design strategies (coming soon) or contact the experts at Biofilico today.

the science behind biophilic design

biophilic design science behind the wellness

The last two centuries have seen a massive process of urbanization as entire populations transition from natural to heavily built environments with limited access to greenery, open spaces and wildlife. This represents a fundamental disconnect from our evolutionary history.

Man's innate connection with nature is known as biophilia which in turn gives us biophilic design - an attempt to reunite indoor and outdoor worlds through the sensitive use of natural materials, shapes, breezes, colours, scents and sounds in urban architecture and interiors. Biofit leverages this same approach for an inner city fitness studio concept. Why?

Biophilic architecture has been enthusiastically adopted by the tech giants of Silicon Valley such as Apple, Amazon and Facebook for their new Californian headquarters. According to David Radcliffe, Vice President of Real Estate at Google, its new campus will have “trees & landscaping weaving through its structures to blur the distinction between the buildings and nature”.

Such environments are not just sustainable, a recent study by Professor of Organizational Psychology and Health Sir Cary Cooper entitled ‘Biophilic Design in the Workplace’ surveyed 3600 office workers across Europe and the Middle-East. The results showed how internal green space, natural light and foliage boost the mood, productivity and job satisfaction of employees while also reducing stress.

A recent report published by US-based consultancy Terrapin Bright Green entitled ‘The Economics of Biophilia’ highlights how this approach can also be applied to retail areas to boost visitor spend as well as educational facilities to increase students’ learning speed.

In the world of healthcare facility design, a seminal study by Professor Roger Ulrich at Chalmers University of Technology in Sweden showed that patients whose windows looked out onto nature required 8.5% less recovery time than those who faced brick walls.

Such research eventually led to the type of healing garden created by designer Lily Jencks for her family foundation’s Maggies cancer care homes across the UK and Hong Kong. 

The next frontier looks to be healthy, or wellness-oriented real estate, as exemplified by the likes of Delos in the US. Biofit aims to be a part of that movement by contributing its own nature inspired update on the traditional fitness facility.

To find out more about our biophilic design services for gyms, offices, homes and hospitality venues, contact us via email through this website.

A Guide to the Health Benefits of Organic Whey Protein

 
biofit matt aspiotis morley health benefits to whey protein

Is organic whey protein natural & healthy?

Whey protein is one of the most popular nutritional supplements among active adults so why are so many men and women taking it nowadays? In most cases, they’re likely hoping to gain lean muscle mass in combination with their strength training, lose weight with a high protein low carb diet and / or recover faster from workouts.  

Are such expectations realistic? Is it really just an off-shoot of more desirable dairy products? Can it safely be considered part of a natural lifestyle? 

With so many wild claims flying about between gym locker rooms and product marketing material it’s genuinely hard to know sometimes, so we took a look at the evidence-based research to help you make an informed decision. Read on to find out more.

biofit's whey protein guide health benefits

first things first, what exactly is whey protein?

Whey protein powder is made from cow’s milk.  When the milk is processed into curds to make cheese, whey is the liquid portion left over.  When manufacturers put this liquid through a drying process, it forms whey protein powder. Nothing complicated.

how does whey protein work?

Muscle metabolism is a delicate balance of muscle protein synthesis and breakdown.  Only when synthesis exceeds breakdown does muscle mass grow.  When you weight train, this balance swings heavily in favour of muscle synthesis - as long as you can supply enough amino acids to support it. [1]

Whey protein is rich in amino acids, including the branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs) valine, isoleucine and leucine.  Whey’s high leucine content gives it an edge over other protein supplements, as that particular type has the strongest effect on muscle synthesis of all the amino acids.[2]  

Furthermore, the body can absorb whey much faster than other proteins, making it the preferred choice for many.[3]

biofit guide to organic whey protein health benefits

whey protein for muscle growth

There’s plenty of evidence to show that whey protein can increase muscle mass and performance alongside an exercise routine of adequate difficulty, duration and frequency.

Results from a 2017 double-blind, randomized, controlled clinical trial with 24 active male participants support this. Researchers found that 20 grams of whey protein per day increased fat-free mass (+1.4% v.s. 0.0% placebo) and vastus medialis thickness (part of the quad) (12.1% v.s. 6.3% placebo) during an 8-week resistance-training program.[4]

How much regular strength training is necessary to make an impact?

A 2015 review of 38 studies concluded that taking a protein supplement likely has no impact on lean mass and muscle strength during the first few weeks of working out.  Gains only begin to appear as the duration, frequency, and volume of strength training increase.[5] Our advice? Give it 6-8 weeks at least, we’re all in this for the long-term anyway, not just for a quick win.

whey protein for exercise recovery

The soreness and reduced muscle performance you experience after intense exercise are thanks to damaged contractile proteins.  If you’ve been following so far, you might be thinking that whey protein’s ability to stimulate muscle synthesis could also help with repair and recovery. And you’d be right, partly.

Protein supplementation does help with recovery but only over the longer term. Studies that looked at recovery over less than 24 hours found no change. However, taking a protein supplement on a regular basis for extended periods reduced muscle soreness and indirect markers of muscle damage from subsequent exercise.[6]

Flavored whey vs organic unflavored, which is better?

This one is obvious people! All of those flavored, sweetened whey products simply have no place in a natural diet so ignore them completely and hunt down the high-grade, grass-fed, organic whey protein from a source in your region.

If you’re in Europe, try to find whey from European cows for example. This is just common sense in our opinion.

Then to add interest and make the stuff vaguely pleasant to consume, add raw cocoa powder, organic peanut butter and your preferred nut mylk for a light, easily digestible and sugar-free pre or post-workout smoothie. Remember, keep it super simple if this is a drink you consume every day. Your stomach will thank you for it!

For more nutrition advice and all things natural health and fitness, simply visit my Biofit website.

 

Natural nootropics: Green tea

 
biofit health fitness green tea nutrition supplement matt aspiotis morley

biophilic living: natural green tea

Green tea is one of the most widely consumed drinks in the world and has been a staple in East Asian cultures for millennia, forming a key part in a biophilic lifestyle in tune with nature.

This leaf’s benefits on cognitive function, improved mood and, to a lesser extent, disease prevention are also becoming increasingly well known in the West, placing it firmly in the camp of contemporary natural nootropics as well as that of traditional medicine. And herein lies the magic…

In fact, we’d go as far as to say it’s a genuine powerhouse of a nootropic that should be part of any mental performance supplementation program. 

So, can a cup of green tea a day keep the doctor away? Or should you opt for a high potency supplement instead? Read on to learn more.

first things first, what exactly is green tea?

Green, black and oolong tea all come from a plant called Camellia sinensis; the differences between them only kick in after processing.

To make green tea, producers steam the fresh leaves right after harvesting. Steaming stops fermentation that would break down many of the plant’s health-promoting constituents and also preserves the leaves’ green colour.  

To make oolong and black tea on the other hand, growers allow the green tea to ferment, producing a different colour and flavour profile, as well as altered biological activity.[1]

matt aspiotis morley biofit health fitness gyms green tea supplement nootropics

how does green tea impact our health?

Most of the health benefits of green tea come from polyphenolic catechins, the most abundant being epigallocatechin-3-gallate (EGCG); these are antioxidant compounds that help protect our cells from damage. 

Scientists are researching the effects of green tea catechins on a number of conditions such as cancer, diabetes, heart disease, and neurodegenerative diseases.[2]

Other natural nootropics in green tea are caffeine and the amino acid theanine, a uniquely helpful pairing that works in synergy to enhance clarity and focus. [3]

In lay terms words, if you consume more than 2-3 cups of caffeine during the day, a dose of theanine would be a sensible way to counterbalance any associated jitters. We’ll return to the joys of theanine shortly though!

natural green tea for neuroprotection

Researchers believe ROS and oxidative stress play a significant role in Parkinson's and Alzheimer's diseases, contributing to neuronal damage in other words. Antioxidant catechins may help to protect against these diseases, a theory supported by preliminary animal studies of EGCG.[4]

Research studies also show that a polyphenol rich diet can have a positive impact on preventing memory impairment associated with age-related disease such as Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia. Our daily regime includes blueberries and a green tea supplement for their combined polyphenol power, for this very reason. [4]

green tea nootropic biofit supplements natural health matt aspiotis morley

green tea’s theanine for treating mild forms of stress

A hot cup of green tea can act as mental prompt to slow down for a few minutes to collect one’s thoughts but there’s more to it than that; theanine in green tea has proven anti-stress effects in humans and animals.[5]

Researchers gave 200mg of theanine to participants in one study resulting in reported feelings of relaxation and calm; additionally, the theanine helps counteract feelings of tension from tea’s caffeine content.[6]  

green tea’s benefits on blood pressure, cholesterol and the heart

Experts have uncovered a link between the lower rate of heart disease in Japanese populations and their green tea consumption.[7] In particular, green tea may lower blood pressure and cholesterol, helping to prevent heart attacks and strokes.[1] While these are all positive signs however, we still think tea’s big bazooka lies in its nootropic powers for improved cognitive function and memory.

first tentative forays into green tea and cancer research

Research is still in its early stages when it comes to green tea and cancer prevention, however, epidemiological studies and animal models have yielded some interesting results.  

As well as potentially protecting from skin, breast, prostate and lung cancer [8][9], EGCG and green tea extracts may be anti-mutagenic [10] and prevent the growth of the blood vessels that nourish tumours.[11]

That said, much of the evidence is conflicting, and high-quality studies in humans are a long way off.  Hopefully, future trials will help to reveal any true benefits in this area.

how much of this nootropic should you consume?

A good green tea extra supplement will offer you 200mg+ of EGCG from 450mg of green tea extract, equivalent to 9000mg of dried leaf. that is a lot of tea drinking!

Unless you have the habit of consuming green tea throughout the day, as is common amongst many Oriental cultures for example, we’d recommend the supplement route for maximum health benefits, at the very least on days when you do not consume enough of tea.

If you can form the habit of sipping away at a bottle during a work day at the office say, and that becomes a habit, then the supplement would be a practical alternative on weekends. Either way, with this range of benefits on offer, it’s a worthy addition to any nootropic regime.

References

[1] https://cmjournal.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/1749-8546-5-13

[2] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16445946

[3] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28899506

[4] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15306237 & https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27662290

[5] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27765356

[6] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28056735 

[7] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15226633

[8] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10837321

[9] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11807163

[10] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/2500594

[11] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10201368 

 

Natural nootropics: Cordyceps mushroom

 
cordyceps natural nootropic biofit matt aspiotis morley

Ancient Chinese practitioners have been using the Cordyceps mushroom (Cordyceps sinensis), a medicinal mushroom, for its purported mental and physical wellness benefits since at least 1757 AD.[1]

In recent years, renewed interest in this unusual fungus has been sparked by research in China, Japan, Korea, and the US uncovering a number of its natural ingredients that show health benefits on blood pressure, cognitive performance and athletic performance.

So, should you consider adding this natural nootropic to your nutritional supplement regime?

First up, what exactly are Cordyceps mushrooms?

Cordyceps sinensis is a fungus native to the high altitudes of the Tibetan Plateau. It is considered a parasite as it lives on a host caterpillar (Hepiaidae). 

The Chinese name for Cordyceps is Dong Chong Xia Cao (DCXC), meaning “winter worm and summer grass”, reflecting some of the life cycle of the fungus. 

In winter, the fungus covers the caterpillar in wispy tendrils that can resemble a white worm while in summer, a fruiting body emerges from the ground, standing upright like grass.[1]

When picked and dried, they take on an orange-brown hue, looking like a cross between a piece of dried fruit and a worm. Strange but true.

Cordyceps in traditional Chinese medicine

‘DCXC’ is a widely used herb in traditional Chinese medicine known for its invigorating properties, often added to soup to ‘renew’ those suffering from an illness.[2

According to tradition, Cordyceps improves the ying and yang of the lungs.  The Chinese Pharmacopoeia lists “replenishing the kidney, soothing the lung, staunching bleeding and dispersing phlegm” as common uses for the fungus.


cordyceps natural nootropic biofit health fitness matt aspiotis morley

How do Cordyceps work?

Much of the therapeutic potential of Cordyceps centres around its ability to boost oxygen utilisation and ATP production, as well as stabilising blood sugar. 

Although we don’t yet fully understand how Cordyceps interacts with the human body, scientists believe that two natural chemicals - cordycepin and cordycepic acid - play an important role.  

Sustainable production

Due to excessive harvesting of Cordyceps for natural medicine, the fungus is now an endangered species.  As an eco-friendly alternative, Cordyceps can be artificially cultivated on rice to produce fruiting bodies with similar activity to the natural fungus.[6]

Cordyceps for cognitive performance

A 2018 research study on 120 mice showed statistically significant effects on improved learning and reduced memory impairment from Cordyceps. [7]

Neuroprotective properties & Alzheimer’s Research

Tests have shown the medicinal mushroom has significant neuroprotective properties (reduction of neuronal cell death) in the hippocampal region, where dementia is found. [9]

Rat studies have shown it can match Donepezil, one of the most prominent Alzheimer’s drugs on the market, on improved spatial memory for example. [9]

Cordyceps for athletic performance

While more research is needed before we can come to any solid conclusions on Cordyceps for athletic performance, there is some evidence that it may improve endurance, increase haemoglobin levels and aerobic capacity.[3

The Chinese Olympic female running team of 1993 claimed Cordyceps were responsible for their three new world records at the Games, having regularly consumed the medicinal mushroom after training for its energizing properties.

Legendary alternative medicine expert Dr. Andy Weil is a fan of the Cordyceps for this same reason, recommending several months of daily consumption for increased energy and endurance.

A 2010 double-blind placebo-controlled trial on 20 healthy adults aged between 50 - 75 years based on a 1000mg daily dose over 12 weeks revealed significant changes in metabolic threshold (10.5%) and ventilatory threshold by 8.5%, although there was no change in VO2 MAX. [8]

Cordyceps for sleep

Tryptophan, a precursor of serotonin, is one of 18 amino acids found in Cordyceps.  It is a well-known sedative and may help to counteract insomnia [4], suggesting that they may be best taken at night rather than first thing in the morning.

Cordyceps for the heart

Preliminary evidence suggests that Cordyceps may lower blood pressure by dilating blood vessels, in addition to protecting the heart from arrhythmias.[5][1]

References

[1] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19222900 

[2] https://www.researchgate.net/publication/284370820

[3] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5856322/

[4] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/1957681 

[5] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22474523 

[6] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4415478 

[7] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5874985/

[8] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20804368

[9] https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1319562X1830192X

 

Wellness benefits of contrast bathing

 
contrast bathing biofit biofilico wellness benefits matt aspiotis morley

Warm and cold therapy is an established protocol amongst both natural medicine cultures and high-level athletic performance but in recent years the biohacking community have adopted similar techniques for their own mental and physical health benefits. 

The ‘contrast bathing’ version of such hydrotherapy deliberately alternates intense warm and cold experiences in the hope of reducing post-exercise recovery time and muscle soreness on one level while improving cognitive function and sleep quality on the other.  

This type of concept also fits neatly into Biofit’s belief in respectfully harnessing nature for physical and mental wellness; so how does it all work and how can you try it for yourself?

what is contrast bathing?

Also known as thermal cycling, in essence contrast bathing consists of at least one hot and one cold bath, shower or other experiential full-body immersion. Advanced, inner-city variations on the theme might involve an infrared sauna, ice bath or cryotherapy for example.

If you have access to a sauna in your gym or a hot bath home, a nearby lake, river or beach perhaps, or simply live somewhere with regular snowfall, you should be half way there already! In fact, I would argue there are additional psychological benefits to be had from integrating exposure to nature into the mix as well, more on that later though…

contrast bathing infrared sauna matt aspiotis morley biofit biofilico

what is the science behind contrast bathing?

Scientists believe that successive exposure to heat and cold increases blood flow to our muscles which reduces swelling and inflammation, helping to clear lactate from the system, an obvious marker for muscle fatigue.[3] 

Additionally, temperature stresses trigger extra nerve activity, crowding out pain signals[4] which in turn has a positive effect on the immune system.[5] 

Research also suggests that daily cold stress, such as a cold shower in the morning say, can lead to an increase in immune cells and protects against infection.[6] Again, our own anecdotal evidence here suggests some light exercise in the morning such as stretching or a brisk walk, followed by a cold shower is a safe bet for supercharging your morning!

what protocol should you follow?

There is no one definitive protocol for contrast bathing; coaches, sports physicians and enthusiasts all have their favourite techniques but, as a general rule, you’re looking to hit between 10-15°C for the ‘cold’ and 38-40°C for the ‘hot’ part.  

In lay terms, you should be looking for a moderate discomfort level before stepping out, really feeling the heat or cold making an impact on your body temperature. Much of this is mental of course but without some degree of stress being imposed on the body, the effects will be inherently limited.

how long should a contrast bathing session last? 

Recommended times tend to be longer for the heat sessions, 10 to 15 minutes say, and shorter for the cold, perhaps 1 to 3 minutes. A total duration of 15 to 20 minutes per cycle is therefore a good guideline.[1] One cycle is good, two to three cycles are better, if time allows. Just don’t go overboard! Listen to your body and don’t try to be a hero if are new to this. Over time, you will grow accustomed to it and you can start to play with your limits but go slow.

is thermal cycling helpful for post-exercise recovery?

High-intensity and long-distance exercise are especially tough on the body, so for those who train hard or go long on a regular basis the aches, pains and some degree of general fatigue becomes unavoidable, unless you happen to be under-18! 

For the greatest benefit in muscle recovery, scientific research suggests that contrast bathing should take place as soon as possible after working out.[2] Imagine pro footballers jumping from ice bath to hot shower or sauna after a game.

I would assume that most people are not pro athletes however and therefore may  not even have time for their full training session, let alone training and recovery treatments in quick succession. Luckily, anecdotal evidence indicates that it is also beneficial to drop into an ‘active recovery’ day.

biofit’s approach to rest & recovery

After nearly 25 years of training under my belt, and a plan to continue for at least 25 more (!), I’ve come to appreciate the value in deliberately scheduling a day of R&R in my training schedule every four weeks or so.

This typically involves some combination of a nature hike, deep-tissue massage, mobility session, self-myofascial release (SMFR), a short afternoon siesta (ideally in the sun for added Vitamin D) and a contrast bathing experience. 

My diet is nicely dialed in nowadays but on these R&R days I will be extra diligent about doubling down on the healthy fats, lean protein and cruciferous vegetables… as well as copious amounts of water to flush out the system and no caffeine to encourage any extra naps that might be on the cards!

It’s about doing everything possible to give the body a chance to grow back stronger and tougher than before. Intermittent fasting can wait for another day!

how much difference does it make?

Current evidence suggests that contrast bathing is better for recovery than simply resting (passive recovery) after exercise and is on par with other interventions like compression, active recovery  (see previous para) and stretching.[3] My approach at age 37 is to throw everything at the wall; and take no prisoners!

contrast bathing wellness benefits matt aspiotis morley biofit biofilico

why incorporate nature as well?

Scientific research studies that specifically isolate this particular variable within the thermal cycling experience are hard to track down but we do know that acute temperature stresses release beta-endorphin, a natural opioid which lifts the mood, without any side effects.[6] 

Exposure to nature has been shown time and again to have a positive impact on mood, reducing stress levels and creating feelings of vitality (see our own research studies from 2017 & 2018 here); outdoor contrast bathing of any variety simply layers the same benefits on top of those related to the physical exposure to hot and cold experiences.

Does it double the impact? Probably not but we might say it extends the range of benefits on offer from that one combined experience. 

can thermal cycling improve cognitive function?

Biohackers are onto a good thing here. Thermal cycling releases cortisol, noradrenaline and adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH) into the bloodstream. These and other stress hormones increase alertness, focus and energy rather like an all-natural alternative to espresso [6],[5]

A word of warning though, personal experience suggests there is a thin line between coming out the other side with a clear head and hitting an entirely pleasant but all-consuming energy crash directly afterwards, so experiment on yourself to see what works for you.

cold tolerance and outdoor activities 

Finally, this may be stating the obvious but hot showers are a modern invention, not an evolutionary necessity - quite the opposite, otherwise we wouldn’t be where we are today at the top of the food chain. 

Introducing a small dose of nature-inspired ‘adversity' into a complete training routine is therefore both concordant with our evolutionary history and comes with a plethora of proven health benefits.[6] More generally though, cold-tolerance helps you when active outdoors, whether it be  surfing or skiing. So, what are you waiting for?

References

[1] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19083715

[2] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23743793

[3] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3633882/

[4] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28150163

[5] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4183517/

[6] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4049052/



 

A guide to CBD oil for mental and physical health

 
CBD mental physical health benefits guide biofit biofilico biophilia

When you think of cannabis, motivation and mental acuity probably aren’t the first things that come to mind but in recent years, the scientific community has successfully challenged this stereotype specifically in regards to cannabidiol (CBD), a natural compound in the plant with a multitude of health-giving properties.

Medical cannabis

The tide really began to turn with Charlotte’s Web, a strain of medical cannabis that had near-miraculous effects in children with severe, treatment-resistant epilepsy.[1] Since then, a deluge of potential health benefits have come to light.  

As legalisation spreads across the western world, professionals increasingly look to products like CBD oil as a natural way to upgrade mental and physical performance.

What is CBD oil?

CBD stands for cannabidiol, one of around 400 natural compounds in the plant Cannabis Sativa.  It is legal and safe to consume. It is not however to be confused with THC, another chemical compound in cannabis that has psychoactive properties, i.e. it gets you high, CBD does not.

CBD in natural, biophilic lifestyle

Talk about living in harmony with nature: the human body has an entire system designed to interact with cannabinoids.  This system has branches in the brain, thyroid, immune system, digestive tract, and almost every organ in the body.  Nerve cells produce signalling molecules called endocannabinoids, which are like those in Cannabis sativa.

CBD vs THC

Unlike cannabis strains used for recreational use, CBD oil does not contain THC (tetrahydrocannabinol).  CBD has no mind-altering properties, and actually counteracts the intoxicating effects of THC.

CBD as part of a natural lifestyle

Modern life can be stressful, with anxiety and sleep disruption a painful reality for many, especially those living highly tech-driven, urban lives. Reduced sleep over the course of a few days however has a severe impact on our cognitive and physical performance.

Biohacking for rest and stress

Biohackers are those who attempt to improve their physical and mental performance by manipulating their environment, nutrition, lifestyle and so on; in this case, many of them are going green in the search for new ways to rest and recharge.

Plants as medicine - ain’t nothin’ new!

Plants were, lest it needs stating, the very first medicines in human evolutionary history- nature held the remedy and relief to countless diseases thousands of years before the pharmaceutical industry began to commercialise the space.

So, while CBD may, like so many other plant-based treatments, be an old remedy, modern medicine hasn’t quite caught up, partly due to taboo and confusion over its place within the marijuana industry /drug trade.

This is an exciting time for new scientific studies being published as legislation frees up the industry; data is still in its relative infancy but the signs are positive.  

CBD for pain and inflammation

Experts believe that CBD could help with pain relief. The body’s cannabinoid system has a role in pain signalling and CBD could block these signals.[2] [3]  Some research also indicates that CBD could be useful in inflammatory conditions like Crohn’s disease [4]

CBD for anxiety and improved mood

Scientists are interested in the role of endocannabinoids in the fight-or-flight response.  CBD could be a potential treatment for anxiety and panic disorders, as well as PTSD.5] One study also showed that CBD had an antidepressant effect in mice.[6]

Improved sleep

If CBD can calm the mind, it follows that it could improve sleep quality. This is supported by rodent studies, which put forward CBD as a future treatment for insomnia.[7] [8]

Addiction treatments

One proven way to improve future wellness is to quit smoking, and CBD may be of benefit in this area too. Endocannabinoids act in parts of the brain that control psychological reward. If CBD can block signals that trigger addiction, it could be useful for drug, alcohol and nicotine dependence.[9]

Neuroprotection

It hasn’t been tested in humans yet, but pre-clinical trials suggest that CBD could protect brain cells. This is relevant to conditions like Alzheimer's, Parkinson's, stroke and multiple sclerosis.[10]

Nootropics

For our thoughts on other biohacking supplements in the ‘nootropics’ category, see here and here.

References

[1] https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1111/epi.12610

[2] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21426373

[3] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28934780

[4] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22815234

[5] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6066583

[6] https://www.who.int/medicines/access/controlled-substances/5.2_CBD.pdf

[7] https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0028390811003467

[8] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28349316

[9] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4444130/

[10] https://www.researchgate.net/publication/314080489

 

Indoor Air Quality in Gyms & Wellness Facilities

 
biofit biophilia nature eco green gym

Biophilic design as a unique selling point

When you walk into a green wellness space, gym, yoga studio or BJJ academy, there is an immediate visual impact from the nature-inspired interiors that stands in marked contrast to most such interiors,. While this can be a unique point of differentiation, the real benefits of such eco-friendly interior design choices go far beyond what the eye can see…

Air Quality & Biophilia

When it comes to indoor air quality, nature-inspired interiors are quite literally a breath of fresh air. Why so? Like so many of today’s man-made environments, traditional gyms are designed with scant concern for the provenance or potential toxicity of the materials used in the fit-out. These chemicals are known as indoor air pollutants (IAPs) and they can have a negative effect on gym-goers’ health.

Indoor air pollutants (IAPs) exceed government limits

In a 2014 study, researchers at the University of Lisbon found that a number of local fitness centres had levels of CO2 and VOC that exceeded limits set by Portuguese legislation.[4] Health risks from IAPs may also be magnified during exercise due to deeper breathing patterns.[5] The cruel irony of course is that health centres and gyms are intended to be bastions of wellbeing.

biofit gym protocols

A biophilic gym heads off many of these issues at the pass thanks to its design protocols and then implements a series of ongoing operational procedures to ensure similar standards of healthy air quality are maintained over the long term. Here is our take on it:

Volatile organic compounds (VOCs)

VOCs are linked to cancer and organ damage. They come from building materials, gym equipment, alcohol-based hand sanitizer and cleaning agents.[1] Biofit gyms avoid VOCs through the use of non-toxic paint; organic materials such as cork panels and eco flooring made of sustainable cork and eco-rubber’; eco cleaning materials and the use of sustainably minded gym equipment suppliers.

Carbon dioxide (CO2)

Human breath is the main source of CO2 indoors.  CO2 levels correspond with the rate of outside air supply; the more CO2, the more “stale” the air feels.[2]  In spaces that have a high concentration of sweating human bodies therefore, ventilation and air flow are fundamental. Think of a spinning or hot yoga studio for example. Biofit gyms use NASA approved air-purifying plants as a way to regulate CO2 levels combined with air-purifiers, tackling the problem from two sides and then monitoring the results on a daily basis.

Microscopic & biological air particles

Some tiny particles in the air are linked to cancer, cardiovascular and respiratory disease.[3] Sources of these particles include traffic fumes, cigarette smoke and dust. Bacteria, mould and pollen meanwhile can trigger asthmatic and allergy attacks.[1] Biofit gyms have strict daily cleaning protocols as well as air-purifying strategies to reduce airborne pollens and dust, outdoor shoes are an under-the-radar source of such particles so our gyms recommend barefoot training whenever possible.

the problem with Fitness facilities

In gyms, martial arts academies and yoga studios, gathering large groups of people in relatively small spaces is par for the course. Unfortunately, this is bad news for indoor air quality. While classes are in session, accumulated dust can be thrown up into the air while heavy breathing inevitably adds extra carbon dioxide to the air. In many instances, ventilation simply cannot keep up.  

Green design: A natural solution

High quality air is an inherent quality of biophilic spaces, which, by definition, are intended to replicate an environment that is as close to the great outdoors as possible, including air purity. On this basis, a well-designed organic gym could house the freshest pocket of air in a city block.

To minimise indoor air pollutants, Biofit’s sustainable gym designs include:

  • Mindful selection of materials

  • Temperature and humidity control to minimise bacterial growth

  • Air purifying plants

  • High ceilings

  • Small to medium-size class sizes

  • Appropriate HVAC system

  • Low-tech or manually powered gym machinery

  • Smoking ban

  • Eco-friendly cleaning agents

  • Easy-to-clean surfaces

  • Non-VOC paint on the walls

To learn more about our eco-friendly, nature-inspired gym design services, please contact us at info @ biofit . io

References

[1] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5707925/

[2] https://pdfs.semanticscholar.org/ad30/328938f3843eace78ffc672851f956389817.pdf

[3] https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/ambient-(outdoor)-air-quality-and-health

[4] http://tarjomefa.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/10/7873-English-TarjomeFa.pdf

[5] https://bjsm.bmj.com/content/35/4/214

 

office recharge rooms & biophilia

 
office recharge rooms & biophilia

workplace recharge rooms - why are they useful?

In an era filled with high stress jobs and always on tech fatigue, recharge rooms are a growing trend in workplace wellness programs. Whether presented as somewhere for stretching and yoga, a quiet room for focused bursts of concentration and productivity, as a chill-out meditation space or even a games area, recharge rooms are somewhere for workers to — you guessed it—recharge their batteries during the workday.  

what are the benefits of a wellness room?

It may seem like an overly generous move by an employer to provide this kind of a facility for employee use during work hours but there is a lot more to it than just helping staff top up on their nightly sleep quota... Companies themselves can benefit from them just as much as the employees do. 

When used for brainstorming sessions for example, these rooms can boost creativity, mental clarity and overall productivity (more on the ‘how’ below). This makes them effective tools not just for forward-thinking HR departments looking to attract / retain top talent in a competitive marketplace (think tech start-ups for example) but also for Executives looking to optimize their team’s output and help individuals find their flow state in what is increasingly likely to be an open-plan office with limited privacy.

meditation room biophilic green eco design biofilico

biophilic design & office green rooms

Replicating the body’s circadian rhythm with smart lighting solutions means these rooms can be pre-programmed each season to replicate the effects of sunlight in the mornings, energizing blue-white light in the middle of the day and softer amber tones later on.

Air-purifying plants combined with dedicated air purifiers ensure improved indoor air quality (IAQ) to reduce air-borne particle counts and remove other pollutants, helping to reduce allergies and promote cognitive function at the same time.

Botanical wallpapers, artworks and nature murals can be used to bring the outside world in, replicating the effect of being outside in a natural landscape even if the office is located in a dense urban setting with limited gardens or parks nearby.

Organic aromatherapy oils such as pine and rosemary can add an extra sensory dimension to the experience whilst also affecting mood and concentration levels. Advanced functional nootropics can also be added to a diffuser now, representing another level in organic biohacking.

the urgent need for recharge rooms

While stress and mental health disorders seem to be more abundant than ever, these recharge rooms are a modern tool to help combat what is a decidedly 21st century problem. With a plethora of benefits for both employee and business, there is a recharge room to fit just about every budget, room size and corporate culture.

To discuss how we can help design one of these spaces for your office or home, simply email us at design @ biofilico . com

 

Biophilic Design in Gyms & Spas

 
biofit biofilico gym design green eco biophilic

nature gyms & ‘green’ exercise

Have you ever noticed that sense of calm that washes over you when sitting on a beach watching the waves roll in, or relaxing under a tree deep in a forest while breathing in those positive phytoncides in the air? 

Nature has a powerful impact on our mood and mental wellbeing, a fundamental concept behind the approach of biophilic design which integrates nature into the built environment for similar functional health benefits. 

How? By combining healthy, nature-inspired and sustainable design principles into one.

what is biophilic design doing in a gym or spa?

The objective of using biophilia in an indoor gym or spa is to offer a powerful connection to nature through an abundance of plants, natural toxin-free materials in lieu of nasty synthetics; organic shapes with a wabi-sari (imperfectly beautiful) finish and a soothing palette of beiges, greens and browns. We have covered the benefits of training outdoor here and we remain devoted believers in spending time outdoors whenever possible!

Taken together though, all of these design techniques can create an indoor environment with remnants of the great outdoors even in a dense urban context where access to nature may be inherently limited. Layer in a spa treatment or natural fitness workout on top though and the health benefits start to become truly compelling.   

biofit gym green exercise research biophilic design

health benefits of biophilia

In 2017, Biofit commissioned the first scientific study into what is termed as “indoor green exercise”. Conducted by the UKActive Research Institute and University of Essex Green Exercise Group, it ran over four weeks at the Biofit pop-up gym in London with a total of 118 participants taking a natural fitness session. 

Each responded to a ‘before and after’ questionnaire, with the following results:

- 75% felt less stressed after their session

- 80% reported feeling more connected to nature

- 87% found an improvement in positive mood state

- An average enjoyment level of 91/100 

By changing how a gym or indeed spa looks and feels, we can thus increase client satisfaction and boost overall enjoyment whilst ensuring happier, healthier members who feel connected to nature. 

why use a biophilic gym design?

Biophilic design and green exercise is a suitable eco-friendly solution for gyms of 25sq. metres up to 1000sq. metres. While smaller spaces are ideal for focused, small group and personal training, larger facilities can offer an array of training equipment, outdoor obstacles and a variety of zones to cover strength, cardio, movement and mobility.

To discuss how Biofit could help you design and equip your gym, be it a commercial business, home gym, hotel gym or office gym, simply email us on info @ biofit . io 

 

Biophilic Design: Botanical Wallpapers & Nature Murals

 
Photowall biophilic mural.jpg

More research than ever suggests that a regular connection to nature is of tangible psychological and physical health benefit yet 21st century urban lifestyles mean securing a regular dose of ‘vitamin nature’ has become a genuine challenge for many.

Nature-inspired biophilic design aims to remedy this disconnection by introducing nature back into interiors and the built environment through elements such as colour, patterns, textures and materials.

An example of this functional health approach to design is the use of wallpapers with botanical motifs and nature wall murals, read on for our take on why they work. 

Photowall botanic wallpaper.jpg

Where and Why to use a Biophilic Wall

Whether you are looking to create calm in a waiting room, need a low-cost way to inject a huge splash of nature into your home, or want an office that promotes both health and productivity, nature-inspired wallpaper and murals are a cost-efficient solution. They’re also fairly easy to install, long-lasting, and require zero maintenance, making them especially useful for underground spaces with limited or no natural light to support plant life.

Health Benefits of Biophilic Wallpapers and Murals

Wallpapers and murals can be a great way to infuse a room with color, create a focal point, or change a room’s ambience, but did you know that this simple wall covering can also have a positive impact on your mood? 

A 1993 study by Dr. Roger Ulrich focused on biophilic design applied to various settings, one of which was a windowless, hospital emergency room. They traded blank walls and artificial furnishings for a design that aimed to connect people with nature through potted plants, furnishings made from natural materials, and a colorful wall mural of plants and animals in a Savannah-like setting.

The result? A significant decrease in stress and aggressive behaviour among patients. Not only did the results of this study give us a glimpse of the power of a connection with nature, it showed that the positive impact can also be present when nature is indirect and merely representational, which brings us neatly back to the wallpapers and murals again!

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Biophilic Walls in Workplaces and Residential Designs

Both wallpapers and murals are suitable for home and the workplace but which one is right for you?

Wallpapers tend to be cheaper, more widely available, and have more designs to choose from, they are also more representative or suggestive of nature than explicitly a scene of nature.

Wall murals on the other hand depict nature in a deliberately photorealistic way—which can arguably lead to greater health benefits.

Whichever option you choose, these outside of the box solutions are guaranteed to introduce a regular dose of nature back into any urban lifestyle. 

If you want to know how we can help you create a biophilic interior contact us via email on design @ biofilico . com

 

nootropics and biophilic living - part 2

We recently published an introduction to the subject of nootropics, here we dig deeper into the subject with a look at the more commonly available organic nootropics ingredients. Why should this be of interest to you?   Firstly, these all natural ingredients are small bio-hacks to help you live a healthier life and therefore represent a way to integrate nature back into our lives, creating a biophilic lifestyle (earth-friendly, connected to nature, with a focus on improved mental and physical health).   Secondly, anyone with a family history of degenerative brain diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinsons may find some inspiration in the concept of bolstering their brain power early on in life. It certainly won’t do any harm.   So read on for an explanation of the main nootropics, their history and traditions, as well as the scientific evidence backing up their claims to enhanced mental and/or physical performance.

We recently published an introduction to the subject of nootropics, here we dig deeper into the subject with a look at the more commonly available organic nootropics ingredients. Why should this be of interest to you? 

Firstly, these all natural ingredients are small bio-hacks to help you live a healthier life and therefore represent a way to integrate nature back into our lives, creating a biophilic lifestyle (earth-friendly, connected to nature, with a focus on improved mental and physical health).


Secondly, anyone with a family history of degenerative brain diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinsons may find some inspiration in the concept of bolstering their brain power early on in life. It certainly won’t do any harm.


So read on for an explanation of the main nootropics, their history and traditions, as well as the scientific evidence backing up their claims to enhanced mental and/or physical performance. 

all-in-one nootropics

Before we dive into our list of the leading nootropics contenders, a short note on how to get started. Various options exist today for easily accessible, online purchases that give you a generalist, quick win nootropic. These all-in-one supplements cover, to a greater or lesser extent, most bases and are in our opinion a great starting position. Examples includes products by the likes of Form for example, or GoPrimal to name but two.

build your own nootropics ‘stack’

For newbies to the subject, a simple all-in-one may be enough to get you started. It requires minimal time and even less thinking. As you start to dig deeper into the subject however, you may wish to go big on certain doses, doubling down on some ingredients and that will require buying individual, high-dose and premium quality nootropics. Place several of these together and you have your first ‘stack’, a term borrowed it seems from the tech community, as in a ‘full stack developer’.

nootropics-biohack_Bacopa_monnieri.jpg

bacopa flower

Bacopa monnieri is a perennial herb native to India with a long history in Ayurvedic medicine linked to cognitive abilities. Ayurveda never set out to be a scientific tradition but we would be amiss to discount this philosophy entirely. Studies have shown that this herb has both antioxidant and cell-protective qualities as well as stimulating long-term increased hippocampus activity, which could equate to overall learning abilities.

l-theanine

L-theanine is an amino acid found most commonly in green tea leaves (Camellia Sinensis) and in small amounts in Bay Bolete mushrooms. Reassuringly, it is readily available in both pill and tablet form in your average health food stores.

Research indicates that L-theanine promotes relaxation without drowsiness, reducing stress and taking the edge off the famous caffeine jitters.

In a 2018 double-blind, randomised, placebo-controlled trial of 46 participants diagnosed with Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD), results showed significant improvements in self-reported sleep satisfaction as a result of daily 450-900mg doses of L-theanine over a 10-week period.

Improvements to brain serotonin, dopamine and GABA levels (neutrotransmitters associated with pleasure and concentration) have only been shown in animal neurochemistry trials to date, as far as we can see, which is primarily where L-theanine’s reputation for cognitive enhancement comes from. 

organic_ashwagandha_root01-1.jpg

ashwaganda

Another big gun in the Ayurvedic tradition, also known as Indian Ginseng, Ashwaganda is said to have similar properties to Bacopa monnieri. In one double-blind, placebo controlled study, 50 adults with mild cognitive impairment were treated with 300mg twice daily or a placebo for eight weeks with significant improvements in both immediate recall and general memory in those treated with the root.

Choline

Essential for the proper functioning of the brain, Choline is thought to improve cognition and is associated with higher memory performance. Studies have shown that ingesting Choline during gestation and early postnatal development in mice helps to protect the brain fro neuropathological changes associated with Alzheimer’s Disease.

Gingko Biloba

Gingko leafs are an ancient and isolated species, making them something of an anomaly in modern day biology. One double-blind, placebo controlled study showed 24 participants with improved executive functioning in females especially. Another study on patients with dementia or cognitive impairment showed that a dose of over 200mg per day over a period of at least 22 weeks had potential benefits on cognitive performance.

lions-mane-mushrooms.jpg

Lion’s Mane Mushroom 

Hericum Erinaceus is an edible mushroom with medicinal qualities that belongs to the tooth fungus group. Studies have shown that it can have significant improvements on novelty-seeking behaviors, general locomotor functions and enhanced recognition memory. The exact mechanism through which it achieves this however, is not yet fully understood.

5 tips for improving indoor air quality at home

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indoor air quality and biophilic design

Indoor air quality is a key component of the healthy building / healthy design movement and forms a central part in all the big certification programs such as WELL, Fitwel and the International Living Future Institute.

It is also a component of biophilic design as it is returns the indoor built environment to a more natural state, similar to the type of air we were breathing for millions of years while evolving on the planet, i.e. fresh, clean and pollution-free.

This in turn opens the door to several bio-hacks designed to improve overall health, sleep and mental acuity.

top 5 tips for maintaining healthy indoor air at home:

1.take your shoes off!

Remove outdoor shoes at the entrance religiously, switching to dedicated indoor only shoes such as slippers, sandals or simply go barefoot, depending on the climate. This is non negotiable and half the world’s population think nothing of doing it so adopt the habit or you’ll face an uphill struggle from the start. Your shoes drag in toxins and all manner of dirt from the streets outside, just look at the soles of a well-worn pair of white trains to remind yourself of what is out there. Leave them at the door. Invest in a shoe rack and place it by your entrance. Set your feet free and breathe deep.

2. air purifying fans

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Invest in an air purifying fan such as the Dyson Pure. Not only does it have the trademark Dyson aesthetic, meaning it will happily sit in the corner of your bedroom or living area without being a visual eyesore, it also comes with an impressive smartphone app that allows you to set on/off timers, view air quality data in real time and generally get the most out of the hardware. All you’d need do is set the fan to turn on automatically around 5pm each evening and then switch it to night mode when you go to sleep. This would ensure you have clean indoor air in your bedroom for +/-8 hours while sleeping. If you then set up something similar in your office, where you likely spend another +/-8 hours every day, you’re winning.

3. air purifying plants

air purifying plants

Go big on air purifying indoor plants, yes they have been over-hyped since Instagram gave us plant-stylists but there is plenty of substance to work with here so stick with it. NASA famously did a seminal study on the top air-purifying plants (see below) but the key is not just the species, but the quantity too. Research has shown that between 6-8 such plants are needed per person per room to have any meaningful impact. In any case, plants look and perform best when carefully clustered in groups, like mini forests or jungles, so this is a win-win. Pick up a selection of different height Palms, Ficus, Chinese Evergreens, Garden Ivy, Boston Ferns and a Pothos or two and you’ll be ready to breath clean once you’ve spread them around your home.

4. eco-friendly cleaning

natural-home-cleaning-products.jpg

Adopt an eco-friendly cleaning protocol in the house; rather than lining up endless plastic bottles of chemical-heavy products, step back a minute to consider the alternatives. Recent years have seen a proliferation of environmentally-friendly cleaning products with names like Ecover, GreenWorks and so on. They are not hard to find even in mainstream supermarkets as consumer consciousness slowly edges in this direction. Buy in bulk and decant into a smaller, re-usable bottle to reduce plastic waste. Consider the most basic of options such as using diluted white wine vinegar as a kitchen or window cleaner. Source eco sponges made from sustainable materials as you’ll likely burn through one a fortnight, once it discolours, it is time for a new one.

5. use natural ventilation

Use natural ventilation wisely. If you live on a quiet street, in a small town near a park, forest or sea, you will likely have enviably good air quality, one would hope. Open the windows and let the fresh air in whenever you can, especially in the early mornings. This is a natural instinct in many of us anyway, especially in certain cultures where open windows are a way of life.

The issue clearly is when the outside air is of conspicuously poor quality in a dense urban environment; in such instances the best solution may be to open windows at the rear of the home away from the street, or to open them at times of day when there is less traffic outside.

By consciously taking stock of the air quality outside in other words, one can take steps to protect and improve the quality of the air inside your home as well.

Nootropics - natural performance enhancers - part 1

Nootropics - natural performance enhancers - gingko biloba

what are natural nootropics, a.k.a. ‘smart drugs’?

In short, cognition enhancers originally intended to help improve cognitive function in aging individuals and/or those with age-related neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. 

Also, crucially, used by bio-hackers, entrepreneurs and other early-adopters looking for natural ways to boost physical and mental performance in everyday life. And this is the part we are focused on in this article…

you’re still healthy though, so are nootropics for you? 

To place this trend in perspective, it is the ability of nootropics to improve the prognosis (expected development of a disease) in patients that led to the hypothesis that they could also improve levels of attention/cognition in those who do not have a cognitive disease., or have not yet been diagnosed with one.

how do nootropics affect productivity?

Anyone who is out to change the culture in some way by making a contribution, be it small or large, to the world around them has got to be interested in productivity, especially those working in highly strategic, mentally engaging professions, be it start-ups, tech, legal, medicine or finance.

Making an impact on the world is not going to happen all by itself, especially as a solo entrepreneur. Instead it will almost invariably require blood, sweat, tears, moments of existential self-doubt and a break-up or two. There will likely be caffeine too, lots of caffeine…

the smart drug solution

Enter smart drugs, stage left. Nootropics claim to offer a cognitive edge; even a 5% boost in productivity and concentration can make a big difference over the course of a work day, especially when the number of work hours are limited by another job, relationships, fitness commitments and so on.

a list of common nootropics

Here is a list of nootropics that we will investigate in a series of forthcoming articles to address their affects as part of a functional health and mental performance program based on natural ingredients only:

  1. L-theanine 

  2. Bacopa Monnieri

  3. Ashwagandha

  4. Choline

  5. Gingko Biloba

  6. Lion’s Mane Mushroom

  7. Rhodiola Rosea

In the meantime, if you are looking for a one-stop shop to get into them, rather than trying to build your own bespoke ‘stack’ of smart supplements, check out Earthly Biotics for an innovative, all-in-one solution we have had our eye on for a few months now.

sitting vs standing: an active design perspective

active design & ‘the sitting problem’

active design sitting standing workplace wellness healthy office

A ‘nature knows best’ health philosophy gives a clear set of guidelines when addressing lifestyle issues such as whether sitting is truly the new smoking, as the media have dubbed it.

Here we combine evolution-based thinking with active design principles to explore the topic of 21st century sedentary living.

how did we get here?

In the last half-century, the nature of work has fundamentally shifted. No longer are the majority of people toiling in fields, or doing manual labour in factories, the new normal is to be in an office all day, at a desk, in front of a screen, with or without a natural light source nearby.

From a meta history perspective, this is a long way from an evolutionary correct norm that our bodies were built for. ‘Active design’ is a way to incorporate activity prompts and hacks into the built environment as a way to combat the risk of endless hours of sitting.

less physical activity at work

Physical activity, once so intimately connected with our daily lives going all the way back to hunter gatherer times, is no longer a fundamental part of work for many of us, let alone home life.

One recent study shows that this equates to a reduction in calorie consumption of around 100 calories / day in the US and can therefore be linked to a ‘significant portion’ of the increase in mean body mass across the US population in the past 50 years. In other words, the US population is getting more obese because it spends less time moving.

Physical inactivity in the home

The dominance of televisions and computers during free time in the home is another contributing factor to the total amount of time the average person spends sitting down, not expending any energy each day.

Overall this equates to a massive problem of physical inactivity in both junior and adult populations in the western world and that, put simply, is bad news for obesity levels, diabetes and heart disease.

lower back pain in office workers

Prolonger periods of sitting have a direct impact on hip mobility while also being a major cause of lower back pain. Even sitting for shorter stretches of time is an improvement, which is where ‘active design’ tactics that encourage small movement snacks during the day can provide a solution.

lifestyle exercise at work

Lifestyle exercise encourages office workers to integrate short periods of low to moderate activity into their day, the idea being to cumulatively piece together a meaningful amount of movement through a combination of trips to the water cooler, up and down stairs, for a walk around the block, and so on over the course of the day. Think of the often quoted “10,000 steps” concept.

humanscale quickstand standing desk healthy office design


sit-stand desks in healthy offices

Products such as the Human Scale desk converter shown above help encourage a combination of sitting and standing at work, giving the desk owner the option to adjust desk height at will throughout the day.

Most people will find the afternoons tiring after a full morning on their feet, so a mobility ball under the desk can help, as can the option to move elsewhere in the office to change position for a while. It is all about mixing things up according to the type of work taking place.

A Cochrane review of existing research showed that the main benefit of investing in one of these desks, or an extension for an existing desk, is to reduce the total amount of time an office worker spends sitting down during their work day as well as to reduce the number of sitting bouts over 30 minutes in duration.

Our own anecdotal evidence of using them for the past six years or so is that they make a massive difference for lower back pain sufferers, quite literally removing the issue from the equation for as long as one can stay off the chair. Mix that with a program of core strength and mobility exercises and it is a winning formula. We’ve tried it, changed our habits and will never go back!

signage prompts in office design

Simple signage prompts are a seemingly obvious yet remarkably effective way of encouraging office workers to stay active, use the stairs and say no to the elevator, assuming a reasonable number of floors are required..!

If you would like to know more about how we can help you design a healthier, more active office, contact us via email on design @biofilico.com

healthy interior design at the innovation centre co-working

healthy interior design at the innovation centre co-working

For the past decade, there has been much progress made in the field of planet-focused buildings, one ‘P’ from the so-called Triple Bottom Line of People, Planet and Profit.

green architecture and interiors

Buildings and interiors that respect the planet, doing no harm to the environment and in some cases even giving back, are also described with terminology such as green buildings or sustainable interiors, for example.

Certification systems such as the US Green Building Council’s LEED have given architects and interior designers a clear structure and format to follow, as well as increasingly prestigious ratings that add tangible value for building owners and their occupants.

healthy offices

Only more recently however has the emphasis turned from Plant to People in terms of our built environment. Current thinking posits that buildings and interiors should not only be green but also healthy, actively contributing to the mental and physical wellness of its users, be they residents, office workers, patients or students, for example.

tivat co-working

When we designed the Innovation Centre co-working office in Porto Montenegro, Tivat, Montenegro on the Adriatic Coast, we applied a number of these healthy and biophilic design principles to the interiors as a way to ensure the space promotes productivity, concentration and positive mood. Any entrepreneur knows how important such things are, especially when working alone, to a deadline when every second counts.

healthy, biophilic interiors 

Specific examples include a plethora of air-purifying plants, a large-format photo mural of the nearby Bay to create a calm breakout space, maximized natural light by strategic positioning of work desks, the addition of bicycle storage racks to encourage active travel to and from the office, an outdoor workspace for those all-important fresh-air breaks, ergonomic desk chairs to ensure maximum comfort while seating and finally a number of standing desks to relive the lower back and boost circulation during the work day.

www.ic.portomontenegro.com 
Memberships from Eur 10/day, Eur 40/week and Eur 100/month


organic design: connecting nature & interior design in biophilia

organic design biophilia architecture interiors

eco-friendly design

Sustainable and eco-friendly buildings are a concept that has been introduced into mainstream design over the past 20 years but the historical movement of its predecessor, organic design, started long before.

With organic architecture and organic design stretching back as far as the 30’s there is a rich history of architects and designers deploying this philosophy in a poignant way, long before talk of biophilia and biophilic design. Indeed the creations birthed from this branch of design went on to heavily influence the trajectory of the design sector as a whole.

frank lloyd wright: the biophilia pioneer

Frank Lloyd Wright (1867–1959) was an American architect, interior designer, writer, and educator that not only coined the term organic architecture but also believed in and abided by the concept. After a full career that involved designing over 1,000 structures—532 of which were completed—he published "The New Architecture: Principles”, an essay that laid out nine principles of architecture reflecting his philosophy of organic architecture and design. 

what is organic architecture & organic design?

Organic architecture is best described as harmonizing the man-made world with nature. Or more abstractly put, "form follows function”, a statement coined by Wright’s mentor and fellow architect, Louis Sullivan. 

A structure built using the principles of organic architecture can be said to display the following characteristics:

  • Closely resembles nature, blending in and utilizing its natural surroundings

  • Creates things from the inside out, mirroring how much of nature functions

  • Uses materials and shapes found in the natural world 

The derivative term, organic design, extends the philosophy of organic architecture to smaller projects like furniture, accessories, and art. 

biophilic building case study: wright’s fallingwater (1935)

A home that truly embodies the theory and spirit of organic design is Fallingwater. Built by Frank Lloyd Wright above the running water in Pennsylvania, this family home makes great use of naturally sourced material, such as cut stone and beige concrete.

biophilic design case study: alvar aalto viipuri library (1933)

organic design biophilia architecture alvar aalto library

Use of natural materials, skylights, and irregular forms can all be seen in the construction of the Viipuri Library, all stylistically typical of the architect Alvar Aalto. It is this organic design approach used in Aalto’s architecture, furniture, textiles, glassware, sculptures and paintings that are attributed to his success as a highly recognized, modern architect and designer in the 1930’s. Notice too how this wave-like form repeats itself in the glorious Aalto-designed vase that proudly sits on our showroom table.

organic design biophilia vase alvar aalto biofilico

Specifically designed for the Organic Design in Home Furnishings competition organized by the Museum of Modern Art, the organic chair was revolutionary. Up until this point, comfortable chairs were constructed with expensive springs and heavy bolsters of upholstery padding. The lightweight, molded plywood seat was a game changer.

organic design eames chair biofilico

After the competition the developers, Charles Eames and Eero Saarinen, discovered that the technology to mass-produce molded plywood chairs didn’t exist, so not many were produced. However, this did pave the way for a chair that Charles would go on to create with his wife, Ray Eames. An iconic chair known as the Eames Lounge Chair. 

Email for more information on how Biofilico can help you create a biophilic, organic interior space with natural health benefits.