The Hidden Mental and Physical Benefits of Exercise

July 26th, 2018 by Debbie Martilotta

As You Work Out…
Your lungs are getting stronger. When you do cardio, your brain sends signals to them to help you breathe faster and deeper, delivering extra oxygen to your muscles.

Your motivation is at its peak. Thanks to a flood of endorphins, which trigger the classic runner’s high, you feel psyched and energized.

You’re fighting flab. During typical cardio exercise, your body taps mainly fat for fuel.

FIT TIP: Push yourself to go harder. The more intensely you do aerobic activity and the longer you do it, the more efficiently your body uses oxygen, and this boosts its fat-blasting power throughout your workout.

Within One Hour of Exercise…
You’re protecting yourself against colds, flu, you name it. Exercise elevates your level of immunoglobulins, which are proteins that help bolster your immune system and ward off infection. “Every sweat session you do can help strengthen your immune function for about 24 hours,” says Cedric Bryant, PhD, chief science officer for the American Council on Exercise.

You’re feeling zen. Mood-enhancing chemicals, like serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine, flood your brain for a couple of hours post-exercise and for up to a day if you’ve competed in an endurance event, like a marathon. Stress? What stress?

You’re blasting calories, even at rest. For every 100 calories, you burn during your workout, you can expect to burn 15 calories after.

FIT TIP: To turbo-charge your calorie-incinerating quotient, strength-train at least twice a week. It will charge your metabolism so that you’ll continue to burn calories for up to 38 hours, according to a study from Ohio University in Athens.

Post-Workout Benefits

Within One Day of Exercise…
You’re adding lean muscle. If you did a strength-training routine, your muscles are now starting to rebuild themselves and repair the microscopic tears that come with lifting weights. Preliminary research shows that women respond to and recover from resistance training faster than men.

Your heart is healthier. One sweat session lowers your blood pressure for up to 16 hours.

FIT TIP: A vigorous workout is especially heart smart.

You’re a quick study. You’re super alert and focused post-exercise. That’s because a good workout increases the flow of blood and oxygen to your brain.

Within One Week of Regular Exercise…
Your risk of diabetes goes down. The more you work out, the greater your sensitivity to insulin. That, in turn, lowers your blood sugar levels, reducing your risk of type 2 diabetes.

Your VO2 max, a measure of your endurance and aerobic fitness, has already increased by about 5 percent.  You can go a little harder and longer than you could before.

FIT TIP: Step up your routine and your results will be even better. Plus, you can burn more belly fat by doing intervals rather than keeping a steady pace.

You’re slimmer. Cutting 500 calories a day through exercise and diet will help you drop one pound a week.

Long-Term Benefits of Exercise
You’re getting stronger. Those fifteen-pound weights don’t feel quite as heavy, because your muscular endurance is starting to increase. Ten reps is no longer a struggle.

You’re blasting belly fat. After four weeks of regular workouts, your body is ditching flab and gaining muscle. Overweight people who took part in a four-week program of moderate aerobic exercise in an Australian study reduced ab fat by 12 percent.

FIT TIP: To trim your tummy, do fewer crunches and more planks: Begin on all fours, hands under shoulders, knees under hips, then lower forearms to floor and extend legs straight behind you, balancing on toes. Keeping abs engaged and back flat, butt slightly raised, hold for 30 seconds; do 10 reps three or four times a week.

You’ve got more brainpower. Working out activates growth-stimulating proteins in the brain that may help form new cells there.

FIT TIP: The more challenging your workout, the stronger your mental muscle. Aim for 30 minutes of vigorous cardio at least three days a week.

Within One Year of Regular Exercise…
Working out is way easier. “Your endurance and aerobic fitness can increase by up to 25 percent after eight to 12 weeks of regular training,” Gordon says. “In a year your endurance can more than double.”

Your heart rate is lower. Thanks to regular workouts, your heart is pumping more efficiently. For instance, if your initial resting heart rate was 80 beats a minute, it will have dropped to 70 or lower. The less work your heart has to do, the healthier you’ll be.

You’re a fat-melting machine. Your cells are now superefficient at breaking down fat and using it as fuel. That means you’re zapping more flab 24-7.

You’ve cut your cancer risk. In a study of more than 14,800 women, those who had the highest levels of aerobic fitness were 55 percent less likely to die from breast cancer than those who were sedentary. Women considered moderately fit had about a 33 percent lower risk of developing the disease. Exercise may also help protect against endometrial, lung, and ovarian cancer, researchers say.

You’re adding years to your life.
Fitness buffs have better telomeres, the DNA that bookends our chromosomes and protects them from damage, which can slow the aging process, studies show.

You feel fantastic. Just four months of exercise is as good as prescription meds at boosting mood and reducing depression, according to a study at Duke University. Keep it up and not only will your life be longer, it will be happier, too!

Courtesy of Fitness Magazine


Doctors Reveal Which Everyday Habits Trigger Aging And Inflammation

December 12th, 2017 by Debbie Martilotta

The visible effects of aging are different for everyone, which is super unfair if you ask us.

“Aging affects us on a genetic level.”

This article is from our friends at HealthyWay

But rather than lament early crow’s feet or thinning hair, we decided to ask doctors what aging really is—what causes declining health over time—in the hopes of learning how we can slow down the unpleasant bits of growing older while enjoying the wisdom and greater clarity that often show up at the same time as your first gray hairs.

What we found out suggests that our lifestyles need to seriously change if we plan to keep a youthful look well into our golden years.

1. Your Contemporary Job

The sedentary lifestyle is literally killing us. Studies suggest that women who spend at least six hours a day in a chair are 34 percent more likely to die early, and their cancer risk increases by 10 percent. The risk of early death for similarly sedentary men is 17 percent.

“One study even indicated that standing up every 30 minutes throughout the day can have similar health benefits as quitting smoking.”

Either way, the picture is bleak. And the problem goes deeper than a simple lack of exercise, says Heather Hamilton, MD, a family medicine physician at Memorial Hermann Convenient Care Center in Houston.

“This is not just about getting regular exercise, but also pertains to prolonged periods of sitting,” Hamilton tells HealthyWay. “Recent studies show that sitting too long can lead to higher mortality and early death.

Maybe you’ve heard that “sitting is the new smoking.” That’s pretty much what this study says, just with a lot more data and hard-to-read scientific lingo. There’s no shortage of studies showing how important it is to get off of our heinies every once in a while.

But it’s not that simple. So many of our jobs require us to sit at computers for eight hours a day. What can we do to mitigate the damage our careers are doing to our bodies?

Reporting by the Washington Post that included interviews with doctors, researchers, and biomechanists offer a few solutions. Sit on an exercise ball at work, they say. When you’re watching TV, get up and walk around every time there’s a commercial.

“This is applicable to many people with sedentary jobs,” Hamilton says. “People can simply stand and move at [their] workstation, walk down the hall, or take a bathroom break.” These are small things, but they add up over a lifetime—which may be considerably longer if you follow these suggestions.

2. Skipping the Cheese

You’ve probably heard that the “sunshine vitamin” helps our bodies build calcium into bone. In fact, vitamin D is crucial for preventing inflammation-related disorders that come with age.

Registered dietitian Maryann Tomovich Jacobsen reviewed and approved a list of the risks of a vitamin D deficiency that was published on WebMD, and they’re pretty scary.

The hazards of low levels of this crucial nutrient include aging-related dementia, cancer, and an increased risk of fatal cardiovascular disease. Ideal vitamin D levels differ from patient to patient, so ask your doctor if you’re getting enough through diet and time in the sun.

“Physicians recommend getting at least 10 minutes of sunlight (with sunscreen) every day and a balanced diet rich in vitamin D,” Hamilton says. “Some people may need to take…vitamin D supplements.”

There’s some good news for people who need to get more vitamin D into their diets, at least. Cheese is packed with the stuff. Not as much as cod liver oil, maybe, but which would you rather eat?

3. Laser-Focusing on Cardio

It’s hard enough to get to the gym in the first place. Once you’re there, it can be tempting to zone out on the bikes or the treadmill. Although cardio is great, there are real risks related to a lack of strength training.

“The aging process is associated with changes in muscle mass and strength with the decline of muscle strength after the 30th year,” write Karsten Keller and Martin Engelhardt in the journal Muscles, Ligaments, and Tendons.

While your muscles are wasting away, your metabolism slows down. This combination of factors can lead to unhealthy weight gain, which carries its own list of horrors. The point is, arm day may be more important than you think. Don’t neglect the weights.

4. Trying to Wring Even More Hours Out of the Day

We have a very sad fact to share. Brace yourself: Coffee cannot replace sleep. We know, we know. We’re grieving too.

The truth is that doctors are serious when they tell you to get between seven and nine hours of sleep a night, every night, at least between the ages of 18 and 64. Less than that could affect your productivity and, worse, encourage your arteries to harden. The importance of sleep cannot be stressed enough.

An article in the Harvard Business Review written by Harvard Medical School professor Charles Czeisler warns us that people who sleep less than five hours a night for five years in a row are three times more likely to develop hardened arteries.

“The importance of sleep cannot be stressed enough,” says Hamilton. “Sleep allows your body to process nutrients
taken in during the day and allows your mind to process events of the day.”
There isn’t really a problem that insufficient sleep doesn’t make worse. “Memory loss and mood disorders such as anxiety and depression have also been linked to sleep deprivation,” Hamilton says.

Even worse, skimping on your Zs can wreak havoc on your genes themselves, leading to DNA damage that raises your risk of cancer. We don’t know how to get more hours in the week either, but it’s clear that skipping sleep is not the way to do it.

5. Hating Your Job

If you want to live a long, happy life, free from the damaging effects of growing inflammation, you need to follow your passion. That’s not just a feel-good platitude; it’s medical science.

A systematic literature review published in the journal Occupational & Environmental Medicine found that “job satisfaction level is an important factor influencing the health of workers.”

Hating your job can even spark or exacerbate mental health issues, explains Hamilton.

“Mood disorders such as depression or anxiety can be linked to job dissatisfaction,” she says. “There is an intricate interplay between health and job satisfaction in which both affect each other. When dealing with mental health, it is important to assess outlook on work as well as work-life balance.”

This all makes perfect sense when you think about it. When you hate your job, you spend every day stressed out and angry. According to the American Psychological Association, chronic stress makes existing health problems worse. It encourages the formation of bad habits, such as smoking and overeating. It can even increase your risk of cardiovascular disease.

According to the latest report from the Pew Research Center, a discouraging 15 percent of working adults say they are “somewhat” or “very dissatisfied” with their jobs. But it’s important to remember that many of us do have other options. No matter how restricted you may feel, there’s always another job (or career!) out there, and remaining stuck in an unpleasant environment can actually speed up the aging process.

Tying It All Together

Okay, so what have we learned? Sleep enough, get off your behind, find a job you like, and work out. But no one of these things alone is enough to stop the hands of the clock entirely.

To hold off the visible signs of aging as long as possible, you need to adopt a holistic approach to health, says Ellie Cobb, PhD, a psychologist who focuses on the mind-body connection in wellness.

Aging affects us on a genetic level, Cobb tells HealthyWay, citing research by Elizabeth Blackburn and Elissa Epel that suggests the telomeres at the ends of our chromosomes actually shorten as we age. And these shorter telomeres that cause the negative health effects of aging. That’s because when these DNA caps reach a certain reduced length, the cells that contain them stop replicating. They die.

“The positive news is that scientific research also shows that we can change our telomere length by what situations we experience in life and how we chose to react to those experiences,” Cobb tells us.

So, like, how?

“Some positive ways to reduce inflammation (and therefore reduce negative aging effects) are [to] aim to get regular sufficient sleep, adopt a consistent meditation practice, be conscious of eating healthy fats and vegetables like avocados and leafy greens instead of refined sugars, exercise moderately, and find joy and thankfulness in the little things in life,” Cobb says.

So that’s it! Mindfulness is like calisthenics for your telomeres. We’ll see you and your lanky telomeres on the dance floor in many, many decades.