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Establishing that exercise is essential for brain health is certainly helpful, but determining the type and duration of exercise that can most benefit brain health is also important.

The Franklin Institute explains that walking is one of the best physical activities for brain health. A simple walk can increase blood flow to the brain, and studies have found a strong correlation between walking for exercise and maintaining good brain health. One study showed that elderly people improved their memory and ability to learn simply by taking a 20 minute walk every day. Additionally, the study group had a lower risk of stroke as compared to their sedentary counterparts.

A 2001 study conducted by the University of California at San Francisco concluded that older women who stayed active maintained more of their cognitive ability when compared to their less active counterparts. The study showed that the greatest decrease in the loss of cognitive ability was found in women who walked at least 113 blocks per week.

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Increasing physical frailty as you age is commonly accepted as "a fact of life."

Until recently, most studies showed that after the age of 40, people typically lose eight percent or more of their muscle mass with each passing decade. 

But newer research suggests that this is not a foregone conclusion.

One recent study of 40 competitive runners, cyclists, and swimmers, ranging in age from 40 to 81, found no evidence of deterioration -- the athletes in their 70s and 80s had almost as much thigh muscle mass as the athletes in their 40s.

Quoted in the New York Times, Dr. Vonda Wright, who oversaw the study, said:"We think these are very encouraging results

They suggest strongly that people don't have to lose muscle mass and function as they grow older.

The changes that we've assumed were due to aging and therefore were unstoppable seem actually to be caused by inactivity.

And that can be changed."

Other recent studies have had similar results. For example, in an animal study from last year, elderly sedentary rats put on a running program developed new satellite cells after 13 weeks. These cells are specialized stem cells known to repair and build muscle tissue.

Read more: 80-Year Olds With 40-Year Old Muscle Mass - What's Going On?

Getting to the Weight of the Matter

Recently Lori, a client of mine, called me angry, upset and discouraged. She had just returned from her yearly physical, which she had been eagerly anticipating.  Though she hadn't reached her weight-loss goal, Lori had made many lifestyle changes to promote good health.  She had begun exercising on a regular basis, made some subtle shifts in her dietary habits that made her feel better, and had even begun a weekly yoga/meditation class to manage stress

The results of the physical demonstrated her efforts had been paying off.  Her blood pressure was in the normal level for the first time in years, her blood sugars had dropped, and her cholesterol profile had greatly improved. However, once the exam was complete and she was sitting with her physician in his office, rather than commenting on the improvements, he stated, "Lori, I was really hoping you would have dropped a lot more weight since our last visit.  If you don't get serious about taking off the extra pounds, your risk of early disease will continue.  Have you tried dieting?"

There is an overwhelming presumption in our country that if an individual is overweight they are also unhealthy.  Research clearly supports that being overweight is a major health risk factor, contributing to an increase in cardiovascular disease, diabetes, stroke, and many types of cancer.  So can we assume that if you are hauling around extra pounds that classify you as overweight or obese, it will destine you to a future filled with illness and disease? 

Not necessarily.

An intense debate has emerged in the last few years amongst obesity researchers, asking the question, "Can people be overweight but still be healthy?" Is the number on the scale the only thing that counts, or should we take other factors into consideration?  Scientists are now dueling over the relative importance of "fatness vs. fitness" when it comes to determining the health of an overweight individual.

A small but vocal group of researchers have been challenging conventional wisdom. They argue that not only is it possible to be both fat and fit, but fitness is actually a more significant measure of health than body weight.  The first major fatness versus fitness study was conducted by researchers at the Cooper Institute, a nonprofit fitness organization in Dallas. In a study of 22,000 men ages 30–83, the researchers measured subjects' body composition (the proportion of fat to muscle) and put them through treadmill tests.   They concluded if you are fit, being overweight doesn't increase mortality risk.

Read more: Can You Be Overweight and Healthy?

 If you' live with the daily pain and discomfort of arthritis, you're not the only one. In the United States, an estimated 46 million adults (about 1 in 5) have been diagnosed with arthritis. Hopefully your doctor has given you suggestions about how to reduce the symptoms, lessen the debilitating effects, and improve your quality of life. One of these suggestions was probably to engage in regular physical activity. So how do you get motivated to go to the gym when you can't even get out of bed without pain? Is exercise really going to make a difference?

Research shows a positive relationship between arthritis and exercise:

  • A 14-year study published in Arthritis Research and Therapy, analyzed aerobic exercise and its impact on joint pain. Researchers found that exercise was associated with a substantial and significant reduction in pain, among men and women of various shapes and sizes.
  • A 2003 study published in the Journal of Arthritis and Rheumotology found that patients with RA (rheumatoid arthritis) can safely improve their level of physical fitness using a regular strength and endurance training program.
  • Long-term studies have shown that people with inflammatory arthritis can benefit from moderate weight-bearing activity, and reduce the bone loss and small joint damage associated with this condition, wthout increasing pain or disease severity.
  • According to a study in the Journal of the American Medical Association, strength training can help people with arthritis preserve bone density and improve muscle mass, strength and balance.

If you have arthritis, three different kinds of activity should be incorporated into your exercise program: flexibility training, strength training and aerobic exercise. That may seem like a lot, but once you get into a routine and notice the benefits each provides, it will become a normal part of your everyday life.

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Get Fit in an Instant!

You know you should exercise more. You want to exercise more. But sometimes it's tough to squeeze a full workout into your busy schedule. The good news: A number of published studies show that you can stay in shape and burn enough calories to maintain or lose weight by doing mini-workouts throughout the day. In fact, research has shown that short bouts of exercise—as few as three 10-minute sessions—are just as effective as long ones, provided the total cumulative workout time and intensity level are comparable. Repeat any of the following exercises for a minute.

1. Jumping jack Stand with feet together, then jump, separating legs and raising arms overhead. Land with feet hip-width apart, then jump feet back together and lower arms.

2. Stair running Run up a flight of stairs, pumping your arms, then walk down. Vary by taking two stairs at a time.

3. Jumping rope Do a basic boxer's shuffle or two-footed jump. Stay on balls of feet, not jumping too high off ground, elbows by your sides.

4. Squat jump Stand with feet hip-width apart. Bend knees and lower hips into a squat. Jump in air and straighten legs, lifting arms upward. Land softly, lowering arms.

5. Split jump Stand in a split stance, one foot a long stride in front of the other, then bend knees and jump, switching legs to land and pumping arms in opposition to legs. Alternate legs.

6. Step-up Step up on a curb, stair, or sturdy bench with one foot, then the other, then down one at a time; repeat.

7. Alternating knee lift Standing tall, bring one knee toward your chest without collapsing rib cage; twist opposite elbow toward knee. Alternate sides.

8. Hamstring curl Standing tall, step sideways with right foot, then bring left heel toward buttocks; pull elbows in to sides. Alternate sides.

9. Jog in place Jog in place, lifting knees up; swing arms naturally in opposition. Land softly, ball of foot to heel.

10. Side-to-side leap Place any long, thin object (such as a broom) on floor. Leap sideways over object, landing with feet together.

See the original article on Shape.com
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