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Is It Better To Do Your Exercise Outdoors?

In the world of health research, exercise is one of the few things that pretty much everyone agrees on.

Regular physical activity improves heart health, reduces your risk of cancer, keeps your bones healthy, improves mental health, and the list goes on.

But does it matter where you do your exercise? Will a gym work-out have the same health benefits as a bootcamp in a local park?

The bottom line is any exercise is better than no exercise, doctor and researcher Sandro Demaio tells ABC Life. So if exercising indoors works for you, stick with it.

“But there is some interesting evidence that running on a treadmill does not give the same mental health benefits as running outside, and it may not give you the same happy hormone boost as running outside,” Dr Demaio says.

“That makes sense because you’re not just running to improve your heart health and get the blood moving around the body and improve your fitness. You’re also outside seeing things, smelling things and getting fresh air. All those things will have an effect.”

Time in nature can boost mental health

It turns out, simply ‘being’ in a beautiful, natural environment really can benefit your mental health.

Levi Wade is a University of Newcastle PhD student studying the effects of outdoor exercise on mental health and cognition in teenagers.

“There’s a big evidence base on its effect on concentration and stress reduction. Those are the two big effects you’ll find,” Mr Wade says.

Broadly speaking, we can exert two different types of focus: hard and soft. Doing homework, checking over a spreadsheet, or crafting a pithy email all require hard focus.

Being immersed in a beautiful natural environment, on the other hand, can stimulate our soft focus. You might acknowledge the rustling of the leaves, or pay attention to the bird life.

Switching to soft focus allows your hard focus to recover: this is referred to as the restorative effect.

“If you’re walking in a forested environment or just somewhere that’s fascinating and beautiful, then a lot of the mechanism behind that effect on stress and mood is due to that environment taking your mind away from your own problems and whatever stress you are experiencing,” Mr Wade says.

“It’s just relaxing your mind because you’re not focusing on those thoughts.”

Much of the research around these benefits of outdoor exercise has been conducted on walking — specifically, walking in forested environments in Japan. It’s a popular activity there (not surprising given that 65 per cent of the country is covered in forest) and it’s termed shinrin-yoku, or “forest-bathing”.

One of the world’s leading shinrin-yoku researchers is Professor Yoshifumi Miyazaki, who has been conducting research on the physiological relaxation effects of nature since the early 1990s.

“The most important thing is to make use of nature that you like,” he says.

“During our research, we found that even small elements of nature that you personally like, like plant aromas, flower arrangements, potted plants, or bonsai can have a physiological relaxation effect.”

Of course, sitting next to a potted plant for halfa won’t have the same effect on your health (physical or mental) as a 5k run. But if you’re feeling overworked, then taking some time away from the city is likely to make you feel better.

Then there’s vitamin D boost

Exercising outdoors is also a great way to get your vitamin D, which you need for healthy bones, muscles and other vital body functions.

If you have fair skin you need roughly around 5–15 minutes of sun exposure a day, but this can vary depending on the time of year, and where in Australia you are.

For those with darker skin, or who have to cover their skin for religious or cultural beliefs, it can actually be tricky to get enough vitamin D through sunlight alone. So talk to your GP about your options and whether you need supplementation.

But the sun can also be the very thing that puts many of us off exercising outdoors.

So don’t forget to slip, slop, slap and slide if you’re going to be exercising at times when your chances of UV exposure are high.

The best exercise is the type you do

As simple as it sounds, when it comes to choosing the best kind of exercise for you, the most important thing is to find something you actually like doing.

If you love going for a walk or run outdoors, then go for it.

“If you enjoy it you are so much more likely to stick to it and that is the most important thing,” explains Mr Wade.

But if you’ve already got your gym routine down pat, and the idea of venturing to your local beach is extremely off-putting, then it’s probably not worth forcing yourself into a change of habit.

This is general information only. For detailed personal advice, you should see a qualified medical practitioner who knows your medical history.

ABC LifeBy Dr Chloe Warren

Source: Is it better to do your exercise outdoors? – ABC Life

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An Aging Marathoner Tries to Run Fast After 40 – Nicholas Thompson

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Running is the most elemental sport. The equipment is simple: shoes, socks, shorts, shirt. The activity is natural. We once ran after antelopes on the savannah, and we now run around playgrounds as kids. For the most part, we compete against ourselves. And because it’s so personal, and so elemental, the inevitable decline that comes with age can be wrenching. Aging reduces our performance at everything athletic, but sometimes it’s hard to make out what’s happening. The ball doesn’t seem to go quite as far; the racket or the bat doesn’t swing quite as fast…….

Read more: https://www.wired.com/story/aging-marathoner-tries-to-run-fast-after-40/

 

 

 

 

 

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Fit In My 40s You Could Do a Workout Using Only Your Body & Resistance Bands – The Guardian

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The first thing you need for a home workout is a really tidy house. I’m not remotely house proud, but I can’t do even half a sit-up if I can see an empty yoghurt pot under the sofa (and I always can). So while, in theory, learning how to get fit under your own steam and using your own accessories removes your single biggest impediment to becoming your best self, in reality you have to become a better self before you start. Do not skimp on a mat: I roamed around the house for days thinking if I just lit upon the best rug, I would be fine……….

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2018/oct/27/fit-in-my-40s-you-could-do-a-workout-using-only-your-body-and-resistance-bands

 

 

 

 

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Five Last Minute Tips For First Time Marathoners Tackling The Auckland Marathon – Vera Alves

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With thousands of people gearing up to run the iconic Auckland Marathon this Sunday, there’ll be a lot of pasta-eating and nervous scrambling happening in Kiwi homes on Saturday night. You’ve done your training, now it’s time to relax. Trust the hard work you’ve put into this over the last few months. Here are five last minute tips before you toe the start line on Sunday morning…….

Read more: https://www.nzherald.co.nz/sport/news/article.cfm?c_id=4&objectid=12149559

 

 

 

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The Most Important Part of a Runner’s Body is Their Feet – Laura Hill

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Feet tend to get a bad rap. Lots of people say they are the ugliest part of the body and avoid touching them. Others neglect them – letting toenails get ingrown, corns and calluses to develop and tinea to spread. Our feet are capable of handling hundreds of tons of force every day, and runners often give their feet a bashing during events or injure them from overuse and impact-related injuries……

Seven Ways to Improve Your Distance Running – Kate Carter

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The golden rule

If you are training to run further, always obey the 10% rule. That is: never increase your weekly mileage by more than 10% and never increase your longest run by more than 10%. The vast majority of running injuries are the result of overuse. Your body is capable of astonishing adaptations, but only if they are incremental – so always give it time to adjust and recover.

Get the right kit

Old running trainers

While top price does not always mean top quality, it is important to get the right pair of running shoes – get your gait analysed at a running shop. Find good-quality moisture-wicking clothing that won’t rub or cause issues when you start running in it for longer.

Distance is relative

Tell someone you run regularly and the chances are they will ask if you have done a marathon. Other distances are available! Training hard to improve your 10K or 5K time (or, indeed, your time for a shorter distance) is just as rewarding – and has the benefit of eating up less of your leisure time. Shorter distances also put less pressure on you – if a 5K goes wrong, you can do another one a week later. The reason the pros only do a couple of marathons a year – at most – is that recovering from a hard run of 26.2 miles can take weeks, if not months.

Use your head

Studies have shown repeatedly that the limits of our endurance are dictated by our heads as well as our bodies. For example, research by Prof Samuele Marcora found that cyclists in an endurance exercise presented with positive subliminal cues, such as action words (“go” or “energy”) or happy-face pictures, were able to exercise significantly longer than those who received sad faces or “inaction” words. You can practise this positive reinforcement yourself by finding a mantra to repeat in your head. Also, always break a long run into manageable chunks so that it seems less daunting.

Run faster

Stopwatch

Want to get faster? Alas, there is no shortcut. You need to practise by sustaining faster speeds over shorter distances – this is the principle of interval training. The simplest way to do it is by time – for example, run faster for one minute, jog for one minute, repeat 10 times.

Get support

Before you commit to a big race – particularly a marathon or even an ultramarathon – talk to your friends, family and support network. These intense periods of training can take a lot out of you, physically and in terms of time, and you need backup and to know it is not causing you – or anyone else – too much stress.

Sleep and nutrition

It may seem like something only “proper” athletes need to worry about, but sleep – or lack of it – and poor nutrition can seriously hinder your recovery. If I had a training motto, it would be: “It’s not what you can run, it’s what you can recover from.” You do not need to go overboard on protein shakes – just make sure you get enough shut-eye and eat healthily.

 

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Skipping Is The Best Exercise You Can Do To Become A Better Runner – Laura Hill

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Most running training plans include cross-training sessions to increase aerobic fitness and strengthen muscles. Cross-training helps athletes run faster by increasing fitness, power and efficiency, and it’s also credited with reducing injuries and accelerating injury rehabilitation.

But if you want to really get your blood pumping and your muscles firing, try skipping.

According to the International Sports Conditioning Association, skipping can improve your speed, agility, power, endurance, balance and coordination, all of which are must-haves for running. Skipping works your calves, glutes and quads as well as your shoulders, chest, back and triceps from turning the rope.

Moving meditation

Personal trainer and presenter Lauren Vickers calls running her meditation in motion.

“I try to incorporate running into most of my workouts,” she says.

“My knees have endured many years of high heels, so I can’t run as far as I used to, but I love incorporating some short cardio burners in my outdoor training one to two times a week, with sprints and shuttle runs in between sets.”

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Vickers is a big fan of skipping as a cross-training exercise for runners and anyone wanting a physical challenge.

“Skipping seems like a simple exercise, but it can quickly become extremely challenging,” says Vickers.

“While skipping is gentle on the body, it’s high in intensity. You can really tire yourself out skipping, and consistent skipping will help to improve your strength, endurance and coordination.”

Never skip it

In fact, an Arizona University study found that a 10-minute daily program of skipping is as good as a 30-minute daily program of jogging for improvement of cardiovascular efficiency.

Other research has shown that skipping can not only reduce tension but also raise energy levels. Subjects taking part in a study at Illinois University were monitored while skipping during a 60-minute workout, five-days a week, over ten-weeks. The results included greater leg and knee strength, an increase in calf size, better jumping ability, and faster running speed. Subjects also became more agile and flexible, and their hearts became stronger.

All-round exercises

Vickers loves skipping as a form of cross-training because it can be done anywhere. Vickers loves skipping as a form of cross-training because it can be done anywhere. Her own personal preference of rope is Unit Nine’s sweat plus pack.

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“[It] includes a skipping rope, resistance bands, trigger ball and towel – making it the perfect on-the-go training kit to help me perform a skipping workout at home, the gym, work or at a hotel.”

Vickers says skipping helps runners get used to planting their feet directly underneath their body, and helps to reduce the length of time their feet touch the ground with each step.

“Skipping is a low-impact, effective way to build your running endurance and strengthen the muscles that you use while running without your joints bearing too much load. It also helps to build calf, ankle and foot strength,” adds Vickers.

Do it right

Like any other exercise, runners should warm-up for a skipping workout by getting the glutes and abdominal muscles firing. Give these three exercises a go:

Slide a short resistance band around your ankles and perform 20 crab walks forward and 20 backwards.

Place the resistance band above your knees, lie on your back with knees bent and perform 10 glute bridges.

Using a long resistance band, hold the band at tension with your arms shoulder width apart straight out in front of you. Brace your core and keeping the tension, move the band in halo motions clockwise first, then anti-clockwise for 10 repetitions in each direction.

Once warm, hop to these short skipping workouts:

Workout 1

Warm up for two minutes at an easy skipping pace, and then progress to five sets of interval skipping:

  • One minute easy pace
  • 30 seconds sprint pace
  • One minute side to side skipping
  • 30 seconds high knees skipping

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Workout 2

Warm up for two minutes at an easy skipping pace, and then progress to eight rounds of tabata skipping:

  • 20 seconds sprint pace
  • 10 seconds rest
  • Rest for one minute and repeat the sequence one more time.

The goal of one day completing an ultra-marathon inspires running fanatic Laura Hill to clock up the kilometres each week. With a day job in the corporate world, Laura loves nothing more than lacing up her runners and hitting the pavement to clear her mind and challenge her body.

 

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Exercise May Aid in Weight Loss, Provided You Do Enough – Gretchen Reynolds

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Can working out help us to drop pounds after all? A provocative new study involving overweight men and women suggests that it probably can, undercutting a widespread notion that exercise, by itself, is worthless for weight loss.

But the findings also indicate that, to benefit, we may need to exercise quite a bit. In theory, exercise should contribute substantially to weight loss. It burns calories. If we do not replace them, our bodies should achieve negative energy balance, use stored fat for fuel and shed pounds.

But life and our metabolisms are not predictable or fair, as multiple exercise studies involving people and animals show. In these experiments, participants lose less weight than would be expected, given the energy they expend during exercise.

The studies generally have concluded that the exercisers had compensated for the energy they had expended during exercise, either by eating more or moving less throughout the day. These compensations were often unwitting but effective.

Some researchers had begun to wonder, though, if the amount of exercise might matter. Many of the past human experiments had involved about 30 minutes a day or so of moderate exercise, which is the amount generally recommended by current guidelines to improve health.

But what if people exercised more, some researchers asked. Would they still compensate for all the calories that they burned? To find out, scientists from the University of North Dakota and other institutions decided to invite 31 overweight, sedentary men and women to a lab for measurements of their resting metabolic rate and body composition.

The volunteers also recounted in detail what they had eaten the previous day and agreed to wear a sophisticated activity tracker for a week. The scientists then randomly divided them into groups. One group began a program of walking briskly or otherwise exercising five times a week until they had burned 300 calories, which took most of them about 30 minutes. (The sessions were individualized.)

Over the course of the week, these volunteers burned 1,500 extra calories with their exercise program. The other group began working out for twice as long, burning 600 calories per session, or about 3,000 calories per week. The exercise program lasted for 12 weeks. The researchers asked their volunteers not to change their diets or lifestyles during this time and to wear the activity monitors for a few days.

After four months, everyone returned to the lab and repeated the original tests. The results must have been disconcerting for some of them. Those men and women who had burned about 1,500 calories a week with exercise turned out to have lost little if any body fat, the tests showed. Some were heavier. But most of those who had walked twice as much were thinner now. Twelve of them had shed at least 5 percent of their body fat during the study.

The researchers then used mathematical calculations, based on each person’s fat loss (if any), to determine whether and by how much they had compensated for their exercise. I think they just did not realize that they were eating more,” he says.

There probably also are complicated interconnections between exercise, appetite and people’s relationships to food that were not picked up during this study and can affect eating and weight, he says. He hopes to study those issues in future studies.

But already, the results from this experiment are encouraging, if cautionary. “It looks like you can lose weight with exercise,” Dr. Flack says. But success may require more exertion of our bodies and will than we might hope, he adds.“Thirty minutes of exercise was not enough” in this study to overcome the natural drive to replace the calories we burn during a workout.

“Sixty minutes of exercise was better,” he says. But even then, people replaced about a third of the calories they expended during exercise. “You still have to count calories and weigh portions” if you hope to use exercise to control your weight, he says.

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A Mental Technique Called “Cognitive Reappraisal” Makes Long Distance Running Feel Easier – Christian Jarrett

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When you’re in the middle of a grueling long-distance run and the pain and fatigue is becoming overwhelming, an obvious strategy is to try to force the subjective experience out of your mind, for example by thinking nice thoughts or focusing on the environment around you. The trouble is, as the physical struggle intensifies, the distraction strategy becomes harder and harder to pull off.

According to a new paper in Motivation and Emotion, an alternative approach that holds promise is to practice “cognitive reappraisal” – don’t ignore the sensations as such, but try to view them in a dispassionate way, as if you are a scientist studying running or a journalist reporting on the experience.

The researchers, including Grace Giles and other members of the Cognitive Science Team at the US Army Natick Soldier Research, Development and Engineering Center in Massachusetts, recruited 24 healthy runners (aged 18 to 33, and including 15 women) whose lifestyle included completing at least one run of over nine miles per week.

The runners visited the research lab on three occasions, each time completing a 90-minute treadmill run, keeping their heart rate in the range of 75 to 85 per cent of their maximum – a level classified as “vigorous exercise”.

The first visit, the runners were given no specific instructions to follow in terms of how to cope with the challenge. On the second and third visits they were told to either use “cognitive reappraisal” (to adopt a neutral, detached attitude toward the subjective experience, like a scientist or journalist studying it) or “distraction” (thinking about things besides the run). They also received reminders through the run to use whichever strategy was allocated for that session.

Based on psychological measures they completed before each run, every 30-minutes during, and again afterwards, the participants felt they were exerting themselves less when they followed the “cognitive reappraisal” strategy and they experienced lower levels of emotional arousal, as compared with the run in which they were given no coping instructions.

This was despite maintaining the same pace and heart-rate. In contrast, the distraction instructions appeared to make no difference to feelings of exertion or emotional arousal compared with the control run.

Giles and her team said their results are “relatively novel” and support previous findings that suggested distraction is an unreliable technique. “Instead cognitive reappraisal may benefit exercise experience relative to not using a cognitive strategy,” they concluded.

The findings come with some hefty caveats. Based on the researchers’ own manipulation check that involved asking participants to say which of several statements best described their thought processes during the runs, the participants did not actually engage in cognitive reappraisal during the cognitive reappraisal run.

That said, the researchers reconsidered the statements they’d previously identified as reflecting cognitive reappraisal and decided they weren’t really appropriate – at least not to in relation to how they’d framed cognitive reappraisal in their instructions. On further reflection, they felt the runners’ choice of descriptive statements did suggest they had practiced the strategy adequately after all. They may be right, but these post-hoc gymnastics make the study findings feel less convincing.

Another issue to bear in mind is that these were fit, experienced runners – their average rating for their exertion during the runs was “somewhat hard” and they generally found the experience enjoyable. The findings might not generalize to less fit runners or more arduous challenges.

On a positive note, however, especially if you are new to running or finding it tough, the researchers reckon that both the emotion regulation strategies they tested might have a greater benefit for runners who usually find the experience less enjoyable.

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