Healthy Byte: Toss the All or Nothing Mentality

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Originally Posted HERE

(Reuters Health) – People who get even a small amount of exercise may be less likely to die prematurely than their more sedentary counterparts, a research review suggests.

Researchers examined data from 10 previously published studies that used accelerometers that track movement to measure the exact amount of active and sedentary time spent by more than 36,000 older adults. After an average follow-up period of 6.7 years, a total of 2,149 people died, or about 6% of the participants.

Compared to people who got virtually no exercise, people who got the most physical activity were 73% less likely to die during the study, regardless of how intensely they worked out. With even a little exercise, people were 52% less like to die.

When researchers looked only at people who did light workouts, they again found that even a little bit of low-intensity exercise was associated with a 40% lower risk of death during the study compared with doing nothing at all. People who got the most light-intensity exercise were 62% less likely to die.

“The finding that higher levels of light-intensity physical activity reduce the risk of death is novel and suggests that all physical activity counts,” said Ulf Ekelund, lead author of the study and a researcher at the Norwegian School of Sport Sciences and the Norwegian Institute of Public Health in Oslo.

“This is of particular importance for elderly and those who may not be able to participate in physical activity at moderate and higher intensities,” Ekelund said by email. “The simple take-home message is to sit less, move more, and move more often.”

Physical inactivity has long been linked to an increased risk of premature death and a wide variety of chronic health problems, but much of this evidence has been based on surveys that might not provide an accurate picture of how much exercise people really get, the review team writes in The BMJ.

In the current analysis, participants were 63 years old, on average. All of them wore accelerometers for at least 10 hours a day for four or more days to track how much they moved, the intensity of their activity levels and how much time they were sedentary and not moving at all.

People who were sedentary for 10 hours a day were 48% more likely to die during the study than people who moved more. Twelve hours a day of sedentary time was associated with an almost tripled risk of death during the study.

When researchers excluded people who died within the first two years of follow-up – who might have been sicker than others, explaining their inactivity – the results didn’t change.

One limitation of the study is that it looked at men and women combined, making it impossible to determine if there are any sex-based differences in the connection between activity levels and longevity. Participants were also middle-aged and older, so it’s unclear if results would be similar for younger adults.

“By reducing sedentary time people increase activity, therefore, it is likely that both are not independent factors and that they represent two sides of the same coin,” said Jochen Klenk, author of an editorial accompanying the study and a researcher the Institute of Epidemiology and Medical Biometry at Ulm University in Germany.

“Based in the results of the paper, is seems that any level of intensity is beneficial,” Klenk said by email.

Healthy Byte: The Side Effects of Exercise

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Originally Posted HERE

If ever there was a time to up your fitness game, the arrival of the new year and the new decade is it. But after the allure of the new gym membership wears off, our sedentary habits, more often than not, consume our promise of daily workouts. It doesn’t have to be this way, says health psychologist and author, Kelly McGonigal, PhD.

In her new book, The Joy of Movement: How Exercise Helps Us Find Happiness, Hope, Connection, and Courage, the Stanford University lecturer offer new motivation to get moving that has less to do with how we look, or feeling duty-bound to exercise, and everything to do with how movement makes us feel. She shares with readers the often profound, yet lesser-known benefits of exercise that make it a worthy, life-long activity whether you’re young, old, fit or disabled.

Among its many life-altering rewards: the generation of hope, happiness, a sense of purpose, greater life satisfaction and rewarding connections with others.

“These benefits are seen throughout the lifespan,” she writes. “They apply to every socioeconomic strata and appear to be culturally universal.”

And they aren’t activity-specific and they don’t require you to be a super-athlete. Whether you run, swim, dance, bike, weight-lift, do yoga or team sports — it doesn’t matter, McGonigal says — moderate physical activity does far more than make us physically stronger and healthier.

Here are five of the ways movement can help you enjoy life.

1) Activate pleasure

During exercise, McGonigal explains, our brains release neurotransmitters — in particular dopamine and endocannabinoids — that can generate a natural high similar to that of cannabis, or marijuana.

“Many of the effects of cannabis are consistent with descriptions of exercise-induced highs, including the sudden disappearance of worries or stress, a reduction in pain, the slowing of time and a heightening of the senses,” she writes.

And while exercise activates the same channels of the brain’s reward system that addictive drugs do, she explains that it does so “in a way that has the complete opposite effect on your capacity to enjoy life.”

Exactly how it all works, isn’t fully understood.

“But the basic idea is that your brain will have a more robust response to everyday pleasures,” she says, “whether it’s your child smiling at you, or the taste of food or your enjoyment of looking at something beautiful — and that’s the exact opposite effect of addiction.”

2) Become a “more social version of yourself”

In a chapter on the collective joy of exercise, McGonigal explains how endorphins — another type of neurotransmitters released during sustained physical activity — help bond us to others. It’s a connection, she writes, that “can be experienced anytime and anywhere people gather to move in unison,” be it during the flow of yoga class, during the synchronicity of team rowing, while running with friends or while practicing tai chi with others.

Of course, humans can build bonds through sedentary activities as well, McGonigal says.

“But there’s something about getting your heart rate up a little bit and using your muscles that creates that brain state that makes you more willing to trust others — that enhances the pleasure you get from interacting with others that often makes you this more social version of yourself,” she says.

3) Heal depression

In a section on “green exercise,” McGonigal discusses the positive shifts in mood and outlook reported by those who exercise in nature.

“It actually alters what’s happening in your brain in a way that looks really similar to meditation,” she says. “People report feeling connected to all of life… and they feel more hopeful about life itself.”

Indeed, an Austrian study McGonigal cites found that among people who had previously attempted suicide, the addition of mountain hiking to their standard medical treatment reduced suicidal thinking and hopelessness. Similarly, a South Korean study showed that when forest walks were added to the treatment of middle-aged adults with depression, they moved into remission at a rate three times faster than those who did indoor therapy only.

4) Reveal hidden strength

Even for those who don’t struggle with mental or physical illness, adopting a regular exercise routine can provide powerful transformation. McGonigal shares stories of several women who overcame limiting beliefs through exercise to reveal a new, more powerful self.

“If there is a voice in your head saying, ‘You’re too old, too awkward, too big, too broken, too weak,’ physical sensations from movement can provide a compelling counterargument,” McGonigal writes. “Even deeply held belief about ourselves can be challenged by direct, physical experiences, as new sensations overtake old memories and stories.”

5) A boost for the brain

McGonigal offers insights drawn from research into ultra-endurance athletes and how they survive mentally and physically grueling events designed to last six or more hours.

When researchers at the Berlin-based Center for Space Medicine and Extreme Environments measured the blood of ultra-endurance athletes, they found high levels a family of proteins called myokines, known to help the body burn fat as fuel, to act as natural antidepressants and to provide a possible shield against cognitive decline.

But as she reports, you don’t need to be a super-athlete to experience the benefits of myokines. McGonigal cites a 2018 study that identified 35 of these proteins released by the quadriceps muscles during just one hour of bike riding.

Emerging research, she says, suggests that when exercised, your muscles become “basically a pharmacy for your physical and mental health.”

“If you are willing to move,” she writes, “your muscles will give you hope. Your brain will orchestrate pleasure. And your entire physiology will adjust to help you find the energy, purpose and courage you need to keep going.”

Healthy Byte: Just MOVE!

BLOGGER NOTE: Your New Year’s resolution may include a fancy new diet and a new gym membership but haven’t we all been here before? … Repeatedly?

Try something really new this year and abandon the one-swoop-all-or-nothing sort of bravado and aim small, incremental changes to your daily life. Aim to be overall healthier instead of losing X amount of pounds. One of the common side effects of getting overall healthier is loosing weight but the change of focus will take the pressure off. Instead of relegating oneself to be a gym rat simply try to incorporate more physical movement into your everyday busy life by consciously looking for opportunities to squeeze in the extra physical activity. For example, taking the stairs instead of the escalator or elevator; grabbing a basket for groceries instead of a cart. The simpler the task, the easier to do regularly, and before you know it, your daily physical activity just increased and you are on your way to being overall more active.

Originally Posted HERE

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A burst of exercise cannot be too short, new guidance from the country’s top doctor suggests, as it calls on Britons to do what they can, when they can.

Until now, the advice had suggested that 10 minutes activity was the minimum required to achieve health benefits.

But today the chief medical officer urged people to fit as much movement as possible into their daily lives, by using the stairs rather than the lift, getting off the bus early and throwing themselves into their housework.

The new guidance keeps the recommendation that adults should carry out at least 150 minutes ‘moderate intensity’ activity – such as brisk walking or cycling – a week. Alternatively, 75 minutes of vigorous movement such as running is suggested.

But it suggests this can be done in long or short sessions, spread over the week however suits best.

And the new advice puts a stronger emphasis on “strengthening” activities such as weight lifting, carrying shopping or doing heavy gardening, especially for older adults. And it says any activity is better than none, urging those with inactive lives to take up dancing, bowls or tai chi.

The new guidance also endorses activities such as HIT (high intensity interval exercise) programmes which require very short bursts of exercise.  And it suggests that step counters, such as Fitbits might help adults to boost activity levels.

Prof Dame Sally Davies said the advice to the public is that when it comes to activity, “some is good, more is better”

“If physical activity were a drug we would refer to it as a miracle cure,” her report says.

She told The Daily Telegraph: “This is about building activity into every day life, Walking up a  flight or two of stairs instead of getting the lift. Getting off the bus early .. or pushing the vaccum cleaner around”.

Officials hope that by making the advice more flexible, those with sedentary habits are more likely to change their ways.

The advice does not set specific time targets for strength activities, but encourages Britons to ensure they carry out two such activities weekly.