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: American Physical Activity Guidelines, Second Edition

ORIGINALLY POSTED HERE

Top 10 Things to Know About the Second Edition of the Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans

  1. The second edition of the Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans provides evidence-based recommendations for adults and youth ages 3 through 17 to safely get the physical activity they need to stay healthy. There are new key guidelines for children ages 3 through 5 and updated guidelines for youth ages 6 through 17, adults, older adults, women during pregnancy and the postpartum period, adults with chronic health conditions, and adults with disabilities.
  2. The new key guidelines for children ages 3 through 5 state that preschool-aged children should be active throughout the day to enhance growth and development. Adults caring for children this age should encourage active play (light, moderate, or vigorous intensity) and aim for at least 3 hours per day.
  3. The recommended amount of physical activity for youth ages 6 through 17 is the same. Each day, youth ages 6 through 17 need at least 60 minutes of moderate-to-vigorous activity to attain the most health benefits from physical activity. Most activity can be aerobic, like walking, running, or anything that makes their hearts beat faster. They also need activities that make their muscles and bones strong, like climbing on playground equipment, playing basketball, and jumping rope.
  4. The recommended amount of physical activity for adults is the same. To attain the most health benefits from physical activity, adults need at least 150 to 300 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity, like brisk walking or fast dancing, each week. Adults also need muscle-strengthening activity, like lifting weights or doing push-ups, at least 2 days each week.
  5. We now know about more health benefits from physical activity — and how Americans can more easily achieve them. The second edition of the Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans is based on the latest scientific evidence that shows that physical activity has many health benefits independent of other healthy behaviors, like good nutrition.
  6. The first key guideline for adults is to move more and sit less. This recommendation is based on new evidence that shows a strong relationship between increased sedentary behavior and increased risk of heart disease, high blood pressure, and all-cause mortality. All physical activity, especially moderate-to-vigorous activity, can help offset these risks.
  7. We now know that any amount of physical activity has some health benefits. Americans can benefit from small amounts of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity throughout the day. The first edition of the Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans stated that only 10-minute bouts of physical activity counted toward meeting the guidelines. The second edition removes this requirement to encourage Americans to move more frequently throughout the day as they work toward meeting the guidelines.
  8. New evidence shows that physical activity has immediate health benefits. For example, physical activity can reduce anxiety and blood pressure and improve quality of sleep and insulin sensitivity.
  9. We now know that meeting the recommendations in the Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans consistently over time can lead to even more long-term health benefits. (New benefits appear in bold with *.)
    • For youth, physical activity can help improve cognition,* bone health, fitness, and heart health. It can also reduce the risk of depression.
    • For adults, physical activity helps prevent 8 types of cancer (bladder,* breast, colon, endometrium,* esophagus,* kidney,* stomach,* and lung*); reduces the risk of dementia* (including Alzheimer’s disease*), all-cause mortality, heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, and depression; and improves bone health, physical function, and quality of life.
    • For older adults, physical activity also lowers the risk of falls and injuries from falls.*
    • For pregnant women, physical activity reduces the risk of postpartum depression.*
    • For all groups, physical activity reduces the risk of excessive weight gain* and helps people maintain a healthy weight.
  10. New evidence shows that physical activity can help manage more health conditions that Americans already have. For example, physical activity can decrease pain for those with osteoarthritis, reduce disease progression for hypertension and type 2 diabetes, reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression, and improve cognition for those with dementia, multiple sclerosis, ADHD, and Parkinson’s disease.

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.

Healthy Byte: Sticking with It

Originally Posted HERE

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Faced with a seemingly endless supply of trendy new workouts that all promise a better body and improved health, choosing the best one can seem overwhelming. As a doctor, I’m setting the record straight: the single best exercise program is the one that you stick with. The simplest way to do this, of course, is to focus on physical activity that you actually enjoy and avoid anything that you hate (even if every Victoria’s Secret model swears by it). But beyond common sense, there are plenty of science-backed methods for sticking to an exercise program. If you’ve ever had grand plans of overhauling your fitness routine only to find yourself returning to your couch three weeks later, these techniques are for you.

Shorten your workouts.

Though it sounds counterintuitive, focusing on shorter bouts of exercise has distinct advantages over longer workouts. In a study among young women who were asked to start an exercise program, those who were assigned to multiple 10-minute workouts throughout the day stayed more committed than women who were asked to complete one continuous workout of up to 40 minutes. In fact, the shorter-bout group logged more total workout time and exercised more days per week compared to the longer workout group. Rest assured: the cumulative effect of exercising in short bouts has the same physical benefits as longer workouts, both in terms of weight loss and overall heart health.

Believe in yourself.

Decades of studies on exercise psychology have consistently identified self-efficacy as the most important predictor of exercise adherence. Self-efficacy is defined as the belief in one’s ability to succeed in a specific goal or behavior change, much like the “I think I can” motto of the little engine that could. Self-efficacy is, thankfully, not an inborn trait but a learned skill that can be developed through achieving small successes over time. When starting a new exercise program, set yourself up for small wins and celebrate them. Focus on the better night’s sleep you may get after just one workout instead of the weight you hope to lose by the end of the month. Another way to improve self-efficacy is to find a role model you identify with who has achieved her fitness goals. Research shows this can vicariously bolster your own self-efficacy.

Make it social.

Though it’s not surprising, the dramatic effect of social support on exercise is worth emphasizing. In an analysis of 44 studies on exercise adherence, researchers found that it was highest when it involved a group, like a sports team or a dance group. Drop-in fitness classes were associated with slightly lower adherence, but they were still superior to solo, home-based exercise programs. Even if home-based exercise is your only feasible option, you can still harness the power of social support by recruiting a family member or friend to work out with you or harnessing the power of an online community. Some studies even suggest that simply discussing your plans to exercise with a healthcare provider, mentor, or friend can increase your likelihood of following through with it.

Adopt other healthy habits.

A handful of studies have demonstrated that people who prioritize eating a healthy diet are more likely to be active. The theory is that engaging in one health-promoting behavior tends to inspire others, and although the link is strongest between healthy eating habits and exercise, it’s likely that any healthy behavior – like getting a full night’s sleep or even flossing your teeth – can increase your probability of following through with exercise.

Keep your expectations in check.

If you expect to see a physical transformation within the first few weeks of starting an exercise program, you may be less likely to keep at it. Studies of new exercisers have found that those with unrealistic expectations of physical change tended to give up when their hopes were not immediately met. Health psychologists have dubbed this the “false hope syndrome.” To avoid it, remember that noticeable physical changes from a new exercise routine can take months to develop. And if your goal is weight loss, it’s important to know that exercise alone – without dietary changes – typically isn’t enough. What you can expect from exercise, however, are short-term improvements in mood and sleep and, in the long term, a dramatically reduced risk of developing diabetes, heart disease, osteoporosis, dementia, and several different types of cancer. How’s that for motivation?

Healthy Byte: The Myth of the 10K Steps A Day

Originally Posted HERE

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A few of my friends who’ve recently retired decided to start walking more, sometimes for an hour or more a day.

Seniors Walking Together at the Park

Becoming sedentary seems to be a danger in retirement, when life can slow down, and medical research has documented the myriad health benefits of physical activity. To enjoy the benefits from walking – weight loss, heart health, more independence in old age, and even a longer life – medical experts and fitness gurus often recommend that people shoot for 10,000 steps per day.

But what’s the point of a goal if it’s unrealistic? A Centers for Disease Control study that gave middle-aged people a pedometer to record their activity found that “the 10,000-step recommendation for daily exercise was considered too difficult to achieve.”

Here’s new information that should take some of the pressure off: walking about half as many steps still has substantial health benefits.

I. Min Lee at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston tracked 17,000 older women – average age 72 – to determine whether walking regularly would increase their life spans. It turns out that the women’s death rate declined by 40 percent when they walked just 4,400 steps a day.

Walking more than 4,400 steps is even better – but only up to a point. For every 1,000 additional steps beyond 4,400, the mortality rate declined, but the benefits stopped at around 7,500 steps per day, said the study, published in the May issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association.

More good news in the study for retirees is that it’s not necessary to walk vigorously to enjoy the health benefits.