A Guide to Self-Myofascial Release for Recovery

self-myofascial release for active recovery mobility biofit natural fitness

The popularity of self-myofascial release (SMR) is growing faster than scientific literature on the topic.  It’s easy to see why of course - the underlying principles of SMR are similar to massage yet, as the name implies, it’s a lot more convenient as athletes can self-treat with minimal equipment. As nice as it feels though, will SMR actually help you recover faster? Let’s dig into the facts.

what is self-myofascial release and is it 100% natural?

SMR is a self-massage technique that focuses on the muscles and fascia. The ‘fascia’ is a thin layer of connective tissue under the skin that supports our muscles and internal organs.

Experts have designed special tools including foam rollers, balls and massage sticks for SMR, all of them non intrusive and made for external use only. 

Individuals use their own body weight to apply rolling pressure to the affected area, most commonly the legs and upper back but the same concept can be applied any tight areas on the body. 

Athletes use SMR to encourage recovery, release tension, and treat DOMS (delayed-onset muscle soreness).  Sports scientists recommend three sets of 30-second or two sets of 60-second SMR for best results.[1]

how does smr work from a natural fitness perspective?


Like massage, the compressive action of SMR likely stimulates blood and lymph flow. This delivers nutrients to damaged muscles faster and pushes exercise metabolites out of the body, speeding up repair.[2

Many experts also believe that SMR can reduce adhesions between layers of fascia and relax the fascia encasing the muscle, leading to an improved range of movement (ROM).

In addition to its physical benefits, massage can decrease anxiety, promote relaxation, and improve mood - important factors that can affect an athlete’s performance.[3]

the evidence for self-myofascial release

A team from the school of human kinetics at the Memorial University of Newfoundland studied the effect of foam roller SMR on eleven active males. 

Researchers measured quadriceps force, activation and knee joint range of movement (ROM) before and after two 60-second foam roller SMR sessions. Foam rolling increased ROM by 10° and 8° at two and 10 minutes respectively.[4]  

A later study with 20 healthy male participants investigated the effectiveness of foam rolling as a recovery tool for exercise-induced muscle damage.  DOMS was induced with a 10x10 back squat protocol.

Participants carried out two 60-second foam rolling exercises on the thigh and gluteal muscles at various points after exercise. In comparison to the control (no SMR), foam rolling significantly reduced DOMS at all time points while also improving ROM.[4]

References

[1] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25968853

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

[3] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19123877

[4] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22580977

[5] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24343353

What is Biophilia? What It Means & Why It Matters

casa biofilico diseno design biophilia biofilia

As the world becomes increasingly urbanized, lifestyle convenience and stimuli typically increase while access to nature and green spaces decrease.

Biophilia and biophilic design are in this sense a thoroughly modern response to that disconnect from nature although, as you’ll discover, it is one informed by our meta history, having evolved as a species in relative harmony with nature over hundreds of thousands of years.

What is Biophilia?

We define biophilia as the human love of or need for a close connection with nature and other forms of life. When applied to modern lifestyles, ‘biophilic living’ resembles less a primal, hunter-gatherer lifestyle and is rather about the respectful integration of nature into our home, offices, gyms, diet, beauty products, transport choices and more.

Why Does Biophilia Matter?

Wherever health, wellness, and community are at stake, biophilia has a genuine contribution to make, partly to improve the lives of the people involved but also as a way to protect the planet.

Biophilia & The Triple Bottom Line

Biophilia is a Triple Bottom Line concept in this sense, as it accounts not just for People and Planet but also for Profit, which explains why it has been adopted around the world by some of the most valuable companies in existence.

Amazon, Google, and Apple have all tapped into the power of biophilic design recently for their office interiors, so what lies behind the shift to such botanical work spaces?

Clean Living

Plants convert CO2 back to oxygen as we know but recent studies by institutes such as NASA show that plants also purify the indoor air for us.

Within interiors, this means filtering out harmful chemicals, such as formaldehyde, benzyne, ammonia—to name a few— from off-gassing furniture, paint, building materials, and pollutants that track in from the outside world.

NB: We recommend going big on such plants in each room, around 6-8 per regular user if possible and then supplement that with an air purifier from Dyson, that’s how we do things anyway.

Wellbeing

We are bombarded daily with endless stimulants in bustling urban areas—especially in the era of endless technology. Interiors and exteriors that utilize biophilic design create spaces where such stimuli can be set aside for a dose of Vitamin Nature that will recharge our internal batteries and, as a result, improve concentration, productivity and creativity.

biofilico recharge room green biophilia nature

Our Biofilico green recharge rooms and office interiors are designed specifically for this purpose in fact. When we integrate movement and activity into the mix as well, we end up with a Biofit gym’s ‘special sauce’ - double the wellness benefits basically!

Biophilia & Tribal Community

Not only does biophilia hold the key to connecting with nature in unnatural settings, it also creates opportunities for greater sense of connection between groups of individuals and nature, for example through the creation of communal gardens, green spaces in schools, or shared workspaces like Second Home in Lisbon.

The fundamental insight here is again informed by ancestral health principles that clearly show humans to be tribal animals, originally operating in groups of 150-250 people.

In conclusion, biophilic living is an effective way to counteract against some of the negative effects of urban living and by embracing this concept, we can improve quality of life, health and well-being whilst improving consciousness of our connection to the planet around us.

Related reads from Biofit & Biofilico:

5 Best Examples of Biophilic Design

10 Ways to Add Biophilic Design to Your Home, Office, or Gym

Air Purifying Plants in Biophilic Interiors

Natural nootropics: Health Benefits of Ceylon Cinnamon

cinnamon nootropic health fitness

This post first appeared on my Biofit website Journal page here.

You probably have a jar of cinnamon hidden on your spice rack - it goes nicely on a bowl of oatmeal and banana, right?

How long it has been sitting there and whether it is the Ceylon or Cassia variety makes all the difference to its potential health benefits however, so read on to find out how to do cinnamon right.

what exactly is ceylon cinnamon?

Cinnamon comes from the inner bark of the evergreen Cinnamomum tree, which is native to tropical climates in southern India and Sri Lanka.[1]  

First, growers remove the outer layers, then they shave inner bark into curled scrolls; after drying, the scrolls can either be processed into a powder or left as they are.

Ceylon cinnamon, or Cinnamomum zeylanicum, is one of two main varieties of Cinnamomum tree. Be sure not to confuse Ceylon cinnamon with the cheaper, mass market Cinnamon cassia however - the latter contains a toxic compound called coumarin [2]. Avoid it and splash some cash on the upgrade.

how does ceylon cinnamon work?

Ceylon cinnamon bark contains several biologically active essential oils, notably cinnamaldehyde, eugenol and linalool.[2]  It’s also an antioxidant, meaning it can help protect cells from damage by scavenging reactive oxygen species.[3]

ceylon cinnamon for blood glucose

Researchers are also interested in cinnamon as a potential treatment for diabetes, thus we have several clinical trials on the subject. 

One four-month, double-blind study looked at the effects of a 3 g daily cinnamon powder supplement on 79 individuals with type II diabetes. The group taking the cinnamon supplement experienced a drop in fasting blood glucose above and beyond that of the placebo group (10.3% vs 3.4%).[4]

It seems that cinnamon achieves this by reducing absorption of glucose from the intestines after a meal, as well as increasing uptake into the cells and enhancing insulin activity.[2]

cognitive performance

Interestingly, strong correlations between Type 2 diabetes and Alzheimer’s patients suggest additional benefits in cinnamon’s blood sugar reducing properties.

Separate studies have shown that Ceylon cinnamon consumption can improve cognitive function, which is where its newfound natural nootropic status comes from (9).

antimicrobial properties

Traditional natural health practitioners have been using cinnamon bark as an antiseptic agent for centuries, now modern science can back it up - cinnamaldehyde and eugenol have potent antimicrobial effects against a long list of germs, including Escherichia coli, Haemophilus influenzae, Salmonella choleraesuis, and Streptococcus pneumoniae.[5]

Furthermore, a pilot study in HIV patients observed noticeable improvements in oral candidiasis (thrush) upon taking eight cinnamon lozenges daily.[6]

references

[1] https://www.researchgate.net/publication/266390492

[2] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3854496/ 

[3] https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0308814605000063

[4] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16634838

[5] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20924865

[6] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/8874667

[7] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16582031/

[8] https://pdfs.semanticscholar.org/9347/783684c3df37ccc621f4df38c258c9050398.pdf

(9) https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/05/130523143737.htm

Natural Nootropics: Health Benefits of Raw Cacao

natural nootropic cacao health benefits biofit fitness

This article first appeared as a blog post on my Biofit Health & Fitness site here.

When posts appear in your feed lauding the health benefits of dark chocolate and encouraging readers to eat it with reckless abandon, a dose of skepticism is justified - most chocolate is heavily processed and contains enough fat and sugar to negate any arguable benefits.  

While such mass-produced bars have no place in a whole food based, organic lifestyle therefore, high-grade cacao is a different story altogether. 

“Superfood” hype aside, the Mayans knew a good thing when they saw it. Here’s our guide to how and why cacao deserves a permanent place on your nootropics shelf for its proven health benefits.

what exactly is cacao and how is it different to chocolate?

It all starts with the Theobroma cacao tree. Inside the fruiting pods of this plant are seeds - usually called beans - which form the building blocks of chocolate production. At this stage, cacao beans don’t bear much resemblance to the products we’re familiar with. 

To develop their characteristic flavour profile and aroma, they must first be fermented and dried for several days, a process that gives us raw cacao with a rich but bitter taste.

The hulls are then removed from the raw beans and the contents ground into a fine powder or crushed into small pieces known as nibs. Some producers opt to roast the beans beforehand, giving rise to a product with some degree of natural sweetness.[1]

cacao and healthy polyphenols

Experts attribute the bulk of cacao’s health benefits to polyphenols - natural compounds with antioxidant properties - and it tops the charts in one particular class of potent polyphenol: flavonoids. You’ll find higher doses in cacao than even green tea or red wine.[2

cognitive performance

Additional research has shown links between these flavanols and a reduction in cognitive decline, when paired with aerobic exercise, which is where the ‘natural nootropic’ status justifiably comes from; i.e. a natural substance that boost cognitive or mental performance.

cacao as a stimulant

Be warned too that cacao has a stimulant effect (it is known as “the cocaine of the Mayan’s” for a reason!) and has a half-life of 6hrs or so, suggesting it should only be consumed in modest amounts after dark by those people susceptible to such things.

anti-inflammatory effects of cacao

Inflammation is a double-edged sword, in acute situations it helps us heal and fight infection.  However, long-term inflammation is linked to chronic illnesses. In theory, the antioxidant polyphenols in cacao should combat the free radicals which mediate chronic inflammation, creating a subject of considerable interest to the medical community.

A randomized, controlled, cross-over trial with 24 participants found that those who consumed two servings of a cocoa product per day for four weeks experienced a greater reduced inflammatory markers IL-1β and IL-10 compared to the placebo group.[4]

cacao for blood sugar control

With diabetes levels on the rise due to the pervasive unbalanced Western diet, anything that can help keep blood sugar in check is likely to capture the health community’s attention - and scientists believe that cacao might help by interacting with insulin to do just that. 

In 2015, a randomized, placebo-controlled double-blind study (the gold standard!) tested the effects of polyphenol-rich chocolate on 60 participants. Researchers instructed subjects to eat 25 grams of the chocolate daily for eight weeks and found that fasting blood sugar and HbA1c (indicative of longer-term blood sugar levels) decreased above and beyond that of the placebo group.[3]

how to integrate cacao into your diet?

We buy 1kg bags of organic, sustainably sourced cacao powder and add a tablespoon to our morning smoothie with a nut mylk base and either a vegan or organic whey protein powder. 

After a light breakfast of seasonal berries and macadamias with kefir, followed by some organic boiled eggs and an avocado, this malty cacao-flavored mid-morning smoothie is all we need to get through to lunchtime. Try it for yourself!

References

[1] http://www.mjpath.org.my/2013.2/history-and-science-of-chocolate.pdf

[2] http://www.njmonline.nl/getpdf.php?id=1269

[3] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4460349/ 

[4] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23823716

[5] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4460349/

[6] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3820048/

Active recovery & rest days - a natural fitness perspective

active recovery rest day biofit fitness

If you’re hitting the weights or cardio machines seven days a week hoping you’ll reach your fitness goals faster, you’re likely doing yourself a disservice, at least from a natural fitness perspective. Skip recovery time and eventually your body will complain!

becoming an all-rounder

True natural health is about fostering an all-round sense of wellbeing and developing a wide range of movement skills that require strength, stamina and mobility. Some call this ‘general physical preparedness’ or GPP, some call it real world fitness’. Either way, it' should be your aim in life, over and above aesthetic results. And here’s the thing - to get there, you’re going to need a rest and recovery strategy.

rest days and longevity

As counter-intuitive as it may seem, rest days are a surefire way to help you maintain a regular training program in the long run, helping to reduce the build-up of joint pain and muscle fatigue that can lead to injury and knock you off course for weeks or months at a time.

active recovery

That said, not all rest days are equal. In years gone by, the general consensus was to take a completely inactive rest day, asking nothing of the body whatsoever. The consensus amongst sports scientists has evolved since then however and now we have recovery 2.0 - active recovery!

so, just what is active recovery?

Active recovery is essentially low-intensity physical activity carried out on rest days.  It aims to reduce DOMS (delayed-onset muscle soreness), inflammation and fatigue, thus improving performance in subsequent training sessions.

Your active recovery routine should be shorter and less vigorous than your normal workout, while still involving the same muscle groups.[1]

how does it work?

The idea behind active recovery is that mild exercise gets the blood pumping at a faster rate than at rest. This increased circulation removes lactate and other metabolic waste from the muscles, reducing tissue damage.[2]

In other words, if you choose to do on an hour of mobility work for example, or take a massage and go for a hike, you’re body is going to thank you for it even more than if you just lay on the sofa all day moaning about your sore legs and arms.

the evidence for active recovery

One trial looked at the effects of swimming-based active recovery on running performance. Nine well-trained triathletes started with a high-intensity run, followed by a recovery session 10 hours later. Experts measured time to fatigue with a second run 24 hours after the initial exercise. 

The recovery swim significantly lengthened time to fatigue compared to passive recovery (830 s vs 728 s).  It also lowered levels of the inflammatory marker C-reactive protein.[3]

A systemic review and meta-analysis of 99 studies determined that active recovery was more effective for DOMS prevention than cryotherapy and contrast water therapy but less effective than massage.[4]

active recovery as part of a natural lifestyle

Our bodies are designed to move every day, so when you think about it, active recovery makes perfect sense - especially in a biophilic, evolution-friendly lifestyle.  

As well as the physical and performance benefits, exercise clears your head, improves focus, and relieves stress. Active recovery will give you the endorphin boost you’d be missing if you sat in front of the TV in other words.  

While heavy training sessions are usually a solo affair, “active” rest days are a great excuse to get some fresh air with your loved ones.  This could look like an ocean swim with the kids, an easy hike with friends or a post-dinner walk with your partner.  This list is by no means exhaustive though so get out there do your own thing!

references

[1] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5051742/

[2] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12617692

[3] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19908172

[4] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5932411/


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.

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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

 
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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.   

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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

 
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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. 

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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’.

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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. 

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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.

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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.