Exercise Really Does Improve Brain Power

Can Exercise Make You Smarter?   Aerobic exercise doesn't just build muscle, it also builds mass in key brain areas and improves cognitive performance, says Art Kramer of the University of Illinois. Kramer presented the results of his research into the relationship between physical fitness and cognition at the 2013 meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in Boston. "Populations throughout the industrialized world are becoming increasing sedentary as a result of the changing nature of work and leisure activities," Kramer said. "As a result of these societal changes, increases in diseases such as hypertension, diabetes, osteoporosis and some cancers are increasing. Physical activity serves to reduce susceptibility to these diseases." "Increased physical activity also has direct, and relatively rapid effects on cognition and brain health. Such results have now been reported, over the course of several decades." Prior studies by Kramer and colleagues have shown that aerobic exercise improves the activity of certain brain structures and the connectivity between those structures. These connected areas are known as brain circuits or networks, and they're now thought to be at least as important, if not more so, than isolated brain structures. "Almost nothing in the brain gets done by one area -- it's more of a circuit," Kramer said. "These networks can become more or less connected. In general, as we get older, they become less connected." "The higher the connectivity, the better the performance on some of these cognitive tasks," he said, "especially the ones we call executive control tasks -- things like planning, scheduling, dealing with ambiguity, working memory and multitasking." Walking for better brain health One of these circuits, known as the default mode network (DMN), dominates activity in brains of people who are daydreaming or passively observing their surroundings. Loss of connectivity in the DMN has been linked to the cognitive symptoms of aging. But Kramer and colleagues have found that the more fit a person is, the stronger their DMN connectivity and the better they are at multi-tasking, planning, prioritizing and strategizing. In a recent study, Kramer and colleagues examined the effects of aerobic exercise on the DMN by assigning 65 adults between the ages of 59 and 80 to either walk for 40 minutes three times a week, or to take part in a stretching and toning group. All participants had been sedentary before the study began, reporting fewer than two 30-minute activity sessions in the prior six months. After one year, seniors in the walking group showed significantly improved DMN connectivity and improved cognitive performance. Connectivity also improved in at least one other brain circuit, the fronto-executive network. In another study, Kramer and colleagues found that older adults with higher cardiovascular fitness had better spatial reasoning and larger hippocampi than less fit adults. The hippocampus is a brain structure associated with memory. The bigger it is, the better memory tends to be. These studies and others, Kramer says, show that being fit really does have a [...]

2018-08-16T18:23:12+00:00 By |

A Relationship Counselor Describes the Benefit of Shared Fitness

Can Working Out with Your Partner Boost Your Love Life?   You probably already know that exercise can reduce your risk of cardiovascular disease, increase your chance of living longer, and improve your mental health and mood, but did you know that exercising can also improve your relationship? Alice Dollinger, a relationship therapist in Los Angeles, described how the unexpected benefits of exercise affect your relationship. Although it’s not popular to admit, relationships are hard. Putting someone’s needs before your own while being patient and kind can be as stressful as it is exhausting. Fortunately, the numerous benefits of physical activity will allow the two you to recharge and refresh while becoming closer as a couple. Here are a few ways shared exercise can strengthen your relationship: Exercising Together = More Quality Time Perhaps the most obvious benefit embarking on your fitness journey with your partner is spending more time with each other. Whether you’re indulging in some major sweat sessions at the gym or going for a morning jog, exercising with your significant other can become a favorite past time. But don’t limit exercise to a treadmill or a stationary bike; take your workout to new places. When traveling together, take the opportunity to walk whenever and wherever you can: not only will you appreciate the sights, new surroundings will stimulate your workout.  If the idea of sharing time with your partner isn’t enough motivation to exercise regularly, work towards a goal: Participating in marathons and races can also mean fun weekend getaways. Become a Happier Partner Have you ever noticed how great you feel after you exercise? It’s not psychosomatic; it’s a physical reaction that is happening in your body. When you exercise, your body triggers cells to release chemicals called endorphins, which relieve a positive feeling in your body that is similar to morphine. Endorphins can diminish the perception of pain and act as sedatives. Your brain, spinal cord, and other parts of your body manufacture endorphins. While endorphins can be compared to morphine, they are not addictive nor do they lead to dependence. The relationship between physical activity and endorphins is what enables exercise to reduce stress, ward off feelings of depression, and boost self-esteem. You’ll be More Intimate Don’t doubt that all of your efforts will be evident in the bedroom. “You’ll appreciate each other’s bodies more,” Dollinger says, adding, “Is there anything sexier than knowing your partner has dedicated themselves to a fitness routine all week? You’ll feel proud of each other’s accomplishments.” And you’ll be proud of yourself: don’t forget about that boost of confidence and improved body image exercise grants. Additionally, your shared increase in endorphins will make things hotter. During your workout, your brain harvests endorphins that not only make you feel good but stimulate the release of sex hormones. So expect to break a sweat in the gym and the bedroom. https://www.naturalnewsblogs.com

2018-08-16T15:24:34+00:00 By |

4-Minute Daily Workout

Four-minute workouts done several times a day — as many times a day as you want (within reason) for maximum benefit — are a new concept for fitness that's designed to use nitric oxide for muscle growth. Dr. Zach Bush, whose triple-board certification includes expertise in internal medicine, endocrinology and metabolism, says his four-minute workout is efficient anaerobically and the more you do it, the better it works. He developed the Nitric Oxide Dump workout; I demonstrate a modified version further down this article. While intended to be done about three times a day, you'll want to wait for at least two hours in between sessions, because that's how long it takes for nitric oxide to synthesize in your body for subsequent release and optimal benefit. It's hard to believe, but in those few minutes, you can get the same benefits as if you'd worked out in the gym for an hour. This short series of exercises could be called a new version of high-intensity interval training. It's designed to stimulate the release of nitric oxide, which is actually a soluble gas and free radical stored in the lining or endothelium of your blood vessels that can catalyze and promote health. One reason it's not wise to indiscriminately take high doses of antioxidants is because you do need some free radicals. Nitric oxide is one that causes your blood vessels to expand and dilate, which can lower your blood pressure. It also improves your immune function, stimulates the thinning of your blood and decreases its viscosity, which in turn decreases platelet aggregation. When your platelets are sticky, it can cause the development of a blood clot, which could then cause a heart attack or stroke, two very common causes of death. In addition, another benefit of nitric oxide is that it's a powerful anabolic stimulus that can help you increase lean body mass. One reason this is considered so important is that when you increase muscle mass, you're able to burn more fat. Nitric Oxide, a 'Communication' Molecule Nitric oxide is a molecule your body makes that feeds your muscles, so when you run out of oxygen when you begin exercising, your muscles start to ache, Bush explains. When nitric oxide is released to make up for it, it moves through your bloodstream, your blood vessels dilate to deliver more oxygen and nutrients, and that's how your muscles develop. According to Bush: "Our blood vessels actually only store about 90 seconds' worth of nitric oxide before they need to manufacture more, so working each major muscle group out for 90 seconds gives you the most efficient workout to tone and build muscles. The body has the ability to regenerate nitric oxide every couple of hours, giving you the opportunity to release it multiple times a day. What that means is the most effective way to increase your muscle function is to work out very briefly every few hours."1 In that four minutes, you work 16 [...]

2018-03-03T16:00:38+00:00 By |

Weight Training and Timed Protein Intake Help Prevent Age-Related Muscle Decline

Although muscle loss is a natural effect associated with aging, it is not inevitable when you take steps to prevent the condition and strengthen your muscles. This type of muscle loss is called sarcopenia in medical circles. Sarcopenia will not occur consistently across age and gender, as it is linked to your dietary choices and exercise habits. For instance, a healthy, active 60-year-old may have the muscle mass of a 30-year-old, while a sedentary middle-aged person, who primarily eats processed foods and struggles with insulin resistance may have the muscle quality of a 70-year-old. Eating a diet rich in whole foods and staying active are key to preventing insulin resistance and maintaining muscle mass as you age. It is important to incorporate both nonexercise movement — walking, standing and avoiding sitting — as well as strength training in your daily routine to prevent as much age-related muscle loss as possible. This is essential for improving your mobility and reducing your risk of health conditions that significantly impact your quality of life. Spreading Protein Throughout the Day Found to Reduce Sarcopenia Recent research has confirmed previous studies demonstrating that an even distribution of protein over the day may help to maintain or grow muscle mass more effectively than including most of your protein intake at one meal.1 A Canadian study found that seniors who ate protein throughout the day maintained their muscles mass more efficiently, but it did not affect their mobility. The study tracked more than 1,700 men and women who were relatively healthy, over a period of three years.2 The participants were 67 to 84 years of age. During the study they provided the researchers information about the foods they ate and underwent yearly strength testing of their arms and legs, as well as testing for mobility. During the three-year study the researchers found all participants lost both strength and mobility. However, those who ate protein at each of their meals during the day retained better strength, although not greater mobility, than the people who ate their protein at just one meal. This study was observational and thus could not define a cause and effect from the timing of protein intake. However, while the results could not draw definitive conclusions, it does confirm the results of past studies that demonstrate the timing of your consumption of protein has a significant impact on the development of muscle mass.3,4,5 This means timing may be as important as the amount of protein to best stimulate muscle protein synthesis. In another study, researchers measured changes in protein synthesis in response to timing of protein intake between individuals who ate protein throughout the day and those who ate most of their daily protein at the evening meal.6 Those who consumed a moderate amount of protein at each meal experienced greater muscle protein synthesis than those who ate all of their protein at the evening meal. During Protein Summit 2.0,7 nutrition experts discussed the role of protein in human health, [...]

2018-01-02T17:43:33+00:00 By |

Warmups and Cool-Downs — What Works and What Doesn’t

There's a load of confusion about when and how to best prepare yourself for a bout of exercise, when to do stretching, and what kind, and whether or not a cool-down period is even necessary. Getting these steps done right, and in the proper order, can help you optimize your fitness results and prevent injuries. I used to think that warmups were unimportant and that I didn't need them. Sadly, I had to learn the hard way. If you are going to do strength training, you are simply asking to get injured unless you warm up properly. The warmup is to primarily increase your circulation and blood flow to all your tissues. There are many ways to do this. Calisthenics, body squats and jumping jacks are examples. Do them for a few minutes until you're breathing heavily and that should help. You can then do some light stretching and mobility work, especially on the areas of your body that you plan on training, and then do your workout. Integrating a warmup into your strength training program is a wise strategy to prevent injury. According to two recent sports studies, many athletes waste time on ineffective warmup and cool-down techniques, and raise their risk for sports injuries to boot. As reported by The New York Times:1 "The [warmup] is meant to ready us for the physical exertions to follow, allowing us to perform better and, in theory, not hurt ourselves. The cool-down, on the other hand, is supposed to soothe tired muscles, easing some of the damage caused during training and preparing our bodies to return to exercise in the days ahead. But there has been little scientific or anecdotal consensus about the ideal ways to warm up or cool down." What Science Reveals About Popular Warmup Programs To get to the bottom of it, sports researchers set out to systematically evaluate the effects of FIFA 11 and FIFA 11+, two of the most well-recognized warmup programs in the world of soccer.2 Six cluster-randomized controlled trials were included in the systematic review and analysis — two of them using FIFA 11 and four using the recently updated version of the program, FIFA 11+. The original program, FIFA 11, is a quick and easy warmup involving jumping, shuffling and balancing exercises that takes about 10 minutes to complete. FIFA 11+ is a more extensive and intense warmup that includes sprints, vertical high-jumps, squats, leg lifts and rotations. In all, nearly 4,000 soccer players of both sexes, ranging in age from adolescents to middle-age, were included in the trials. Once results were combined and tallied, the superiority of FIFA 11+ became quite apparent. Individuals using this more intense warmup routine sustained 40 percent fewer knee, ankle, hamstring, hip or groin injuries compared to those using other warmup techniques. Meanwhile, FIFA 11 had no substantial impact on injury rates. Lead author Kristian Thorborg, associate professor of sports and musculoskeletal physiotherapy, told The New York Times: "The FIFA 11+ presumably [...]

2018-01-02T17:44:14+00:00 By |

The Many Health Benefits of Cryotherapy

While living in a climate-controlled environment has its benefits in terms of keeping us comfortable, it can actually have surprising impacts on health. There’s a compelling body of evidence showing exposure to harsh conditions can be highly beneficial. In fact, extreme temperature variations appear to help optimize many biological functions. This is the time of the year, as we transition into winter, when you can take full advantage of the many magnificent benefits that regular cold exposure can have to improve your health. One of the mechanisms by which cold exposure or cold thermogenesis aids weight loss and reduces your risk of diabetes and other chronic disease is by inducing brown adipose tissue (BAT). BAT, which is incredibly mitochondrial-dense, helps improve your mitochondrial function. One of the physiological functions of body fat is to be used as fuel to heat your body if you have active BAT metabolism. This is accomplished by uncoupling the mitochondria from producing ATP and actually producing heat instead. By regularly exposing yourself to cold, you build up a mitochondria-rich tissue in brown fat and help your body generate heat, which actually lowers your blood sugar and decreases insulin resistance. Beige fat is a derivative of brown fat and is recruited through your white fat, which can then be used to heat your body and maintain a more active-passive metabolism. Indeed, the conclusion I reached after many decades of studying health is that burning fat as your primary fuel is a key to preserving and maintaining your health. There are a number of ways to reach this goal. You can do it through diet, and in my new book, “Fat for Fuel,” I explain how to do that. But there’s also a tremendous synergy with cold thermogenesis. Cold Exposure Increases Whole-Body Metabolic Rate A recent study1 in Bioscience Reports looked at the impact of cryotherapy — exposure to cold — on the mitochondrial structure in BAT and skeletal muscle, both of which are thermogenic sites. As explained in this study: “Mitochondria are very dynamic organelles that undergo dramatic remodeling in response to increase in local energy demand within a cell. The mitochondrial architecture (including cristae density, compactness, length, shape, and size) is a reflection of their level of activity, and thus it is also an indicator of cellular energy status. It is believed that organs involved in thermogenesis within the mammalian body elevate their metabolism in response to cold adaptation.” While BAT and muscle both generate heat, they do so using different mechanisms. In BAT, heat generation is based on mitochondrial metabolism. In muscle, mitochondrial metabolism plays only a secondary role by supplying energy to the muscle. In other words, mitochondrial metabolism is directly responsible for BAT-based thermogenesis, but only indirectly linked to thermogenesis in skeletal muscle. Together, these differing thermogenic processes allow your body to maintain a constant core body temperature. As your body adapts to increasingly colder temperatures, several things happen, which together results in an increase in your overall [...]

2018-01-02T12:03:47+00:00 By |

Tai Chi Can Reduce Risk for Falls for Elderly

Balance is extraordinarily important in your life. Whether you're older than 65 years or younger, both your body and mind require balance to achieve optimal health. Unfortunately, many spend hours behind a desk each day, increasing their risk of impairing muscle development and losing strength and balance. Many exercise programs engage the use of machines for cardiovascular work without improving balance and coordination. The elderly experience more risk from poor balance, as it increases the potential for falling and a subsequent bone break. It can be easy to take your ability to walk, move and balance for granted. But, like all things in life, without practice your skill level diminishes. Going up and down stairs, getting up from a chair and picking up something off the floor are all everyday activities that require balance. To successfully train your balance requires performing movements that closely approximate these activities, or activities that commonly result in falls. In new research, participants who engaged in the practice of tai chi had a significantly reduced risk of falling and demonstrated improved balance.1 How Do You Balance? What may seem like a simple task is actually a complex coordination of several different bodily systems. Your sensory systems give your brain accurate feedback about your relative position in space; your brain processes the information, and your muscles and joints coordinate the movement necessary to stay upright. Inner ear infections, inability to sense the ground or loss of eyesight are just a few of the conditions which may significantly impact your body's ability to sense the environment and react appropriately. For the most part, balance is on "auto-pilot," or done subconsciously without significant effort. If you experience a balance problem, focusing on staying balanced may increase fatigue and shorten your attention span. With age, some people find they get dizzy or unsteady when in motion. This can be a combination of environmental sensory integration and muscle strength. The list of disorders that trigger balance problems includes positional vertigo, Meniere's disease and vestibular neuronitis,2 to name a few. Balance problems are among the more common reasons the elderly seek a physician's advice. While a disturbance in the inner ear is one common cause, so are loss of neuromuscular integration, muscle tone and strength. Tai Chi May Reduce Your Risk of Falls In a meta-analysis of 18 different studies involving over 3,800 participants who were 65 years and older, researchers determined those who practiced tai chi at least once weekly had a 20 percent lower chance of falling than those who did not practice tai chi.'3 The researchers compared senior students against how much time they spent practicing tai chi, the style and the falling risk for the individuals. They found any amount of tai chi exercise was associated with a lower risk of falling as compared to control groups. As the frequency of the sessions increased from once weekly to three times weekly, the risk reduction jumped from 5 to 64 percent. The researchers [...]

2018-01-02T12:04:36+00:00 By |

Smart Strategies Address Unique Challenges When You Start Running After 40

Exercise is an important foundational pillar to your overall health and wellness. You enjoy numerous positive effects when you integrate an exercise program into your daily routine. Multiple studies demonstrate benefits, including improved sleep, weight management and immune function. An exercise program may also reduce your risk for heart disease and diabetes, and may improve your cognitive function, especially as you age.1 Starting a program may sometimes be challenging, especially if you haven't included exercise in your health regimen before. I used to be a former sub three-hour marathon runner. Back then, I, along with many others, believed that completing a marathon is the epitome of health. What I didn't know is that I was committing a major exercise mistake — one that could severely damage my health.2 Excessive cardio training may actually increase your cardiac risk, as your heart muscle is not designed for hours of stress.3 While long-distance running may damage your heart, 30 minutes several times a week may be a desired addition to your routine. If you're over 40 and thinking about adding running to your exercise program there are several considerations and unique challenges to address as you begin this journey. Pros and Cons to Running People of all ages may take up running as it's a relatively easy to learn, takes minimal equipment and may be done both indoors and outdoors. Running is an intense form of exercise that may produce endorphins, often described as a runner's high or "energy-buzz." When started slowly and carefully, running can provide you with another cardiovascular exercise to add to your weekly routine in order to reduce boredom practicing one sport and add variety to your muscle development. As it is an individual sport you may set your own goals and challenges to meet. Running also boosts your intrinsic motivation to continue exercise as you may feel more energized and in a good mood for several hours after your run.4 However, while there are many pros to adding a few runs to your weekly routine, consider the challenges and make plans to adjust accordingly. It's important to listen to your body during and after your runs. The adage "no pain, no gain" does not mean you should feel pain in specific joints or muscles. If you experience pain, it's important you stop running and address the issue before it becomes a serious injury. Running is prone to becoming addictive as the stressful nature of the sport increases your endorphin production.5 Guard against running becoming a compulsive part of your exercise routine, as this behavior may cause you to overlook a burgeoning injury until it sidelines you for months. It is important to purchase a good pair of running shoes that provide you with support. Even though they may look relatively unused, most running shoes don't last longer than six months before the internal support breaks down. It's important to replace them or you increase your risk of injury. Should You Walk or Run? [...]

2018-01-02T12:05:06+00:00 By |

Resistance Training Boosts Well-Being in Your Later Years

By Dr. Mercola "Strong body, strong mind" is not just an expression. Scientific evidence demonstrates regular exercise improves your productivity, sleep quality and blood flow to your brain,1 while reducing the development of damaging neurological plaques.2 Unfortunately, less than 25 percent of Americans over the age of 45 engage in resistance exercises,3 which are among the most important exercises to stay fit and healthy. In fact, your muscle strength begins decreasing in your 30s by as much as 3 to 5 percent of muscle mass per decade4 after 30, unless you do something to stop it. Resistance training, also called strength training, is the strategy you use to stop this natural decline of strength and muscle mass. But, gaining strength is only one of the benefits of resistance training, as this form of exercise also helps prevent osteoporosis, improves your range of motion and improves your ability to do your functional day-to-day activities with greater ease. When done properly, strength training can even be a form of aerobic exercise and will help you lose weight. After nine months of studying the effects of resistance training on senior citizens, researchers also found the participants enjoyed improved psychological health.5 Study Reveals Resistance Training Affects Your Psychological Health During this study, the researchers investigated the effect of resistance training on the psychological health of seniors, as opposed to focusing solely on physical changes. The study's lead author and Ph.D. candidate at University of Jyväskylä, Tiia Kekäläinen, commented on why the team began the study of the mental effects strength training has on this age group, saying:6 "The importance of resistance training for the muscular strength and physical functioning in older adults is well-known, but the links to psychological functioning have been studied less." The researchers sought out 104 healthy participants between 65 and 75 years who did not meet the minimum physical activity recommendations for aerobic exercise by the World Health Organization (WHO) and had no previous strength training experience.7 The participants were randomly assigned to one of four groups. Three of the groups were assigned resistance training and the fourth was the control group, who continued their usual activities. The strength training groups underwent an initial practice and training in resistance work twice per week for three months to familiarize themselves with the workout. Following this, they underwent progressive strength training for the following six months.8 Over these nine months the participants completed assessments that evaluated their psychological functioning. These occurred at the start, before any training began, and then at three months, six months and nine months when the study concluded. The participants were also asked about their aerobic capacity and had a physical strength test completed. Health Is Not Just the Absence of Illness The researchers measured quality of life, sense of coherence and symptoms of depression. Sense of coherence is a concept developed by Aaron Antonovsky in 1979 to describe why some people get sick in stressful situations and others don’t.9 The scale measures [...]

2018-01-02T12:05:53+00:00 By |