How To Harness The Pain Blocking Effects of Exercise

Athletes have a very complicated relationship with pain. For endurance athletes in particular, pain is an absolutely non-negotiable element of their competitive experience. You fear it, but you also embrace it. And then you try to understand it.

But pain isn’t like heart rate or lactate levels—things you can measure and meaningfully compare from one session to the next. Every painful experience is different, and the factors that contribute to those differences seem to be endless. A recent study in the Journal of Sports Sciences, from researchers in Iraq, Australia, and Britain, adds a new one to the list: viewing images of athletes in pain right before a cycling test led to higher pain ratings and worse performance than viewing images of athletes enjoying themselves.

That finding is reminiscent of a result I wrote about last year, in which subjects who were told that exercise increases pain perception experienced greater pain, while those told that exercise decreases pain perception experienced less pain. In that case, the researchers were studying pain perception after exercise rather than during it, trying to understand a phenomenon called exercise-induced hypoalgesia (which just means that you experience less pain after exercise).

This phenomenon has been studied for more than 40 years: one of the first attempts to unravel it was published in 1979 under the title “The Painlessness of the Long Distance Runner,” in which an Australian researcher named Garry Egger did a series of 15 runs over six months after being injected with either an opioid blocker called naloxone or a placebo. Running did indeed increase his pain threshold, but naloxone didn’t seem to make any difference, suggesting that endorphins—the body’s own opioids—weren’t responsible for the effect. (Subsequent research has been plentiful but not very conclusive, and it’s currently thought that both opioid and other mechanisms are responsible.)

But the very nature of pain—the fact that seeing an image of pain or being told that something will be painful can alter the pain you feel—makes it extremely tricky to study. If you put someone through a painful experiment twice, their experience the first time will inevitably color their perceptions the second time.

As a result, according to the authors of another new study, the only results you can really trust are from randomized trials in which the effects of exercise on pain are compared to the results of the same sequence of tests with no exercise—a standard that excludes much of the existing research.

The new study, published in the Journal of Pain by Michael Wewege and Matthew Jones of the University of New South Wales, is a meta-analysis that sets out to determine whether exercise-induced hypoalgesia is a real thing, and if so, what sorts of exercise induce it, and in whom. While there have been several previous meta-analyses on this topic, this one was restricted to randomized controlled trials, which meant that just 13 studies from the initial pool of 350 were included.

The good news is that, in healthy subjects, aerobic exercise did indeed seem to cause a large increase in pain threshold. Here’s a forest plot, in which dots to the left of the line indicate that an individual study saw increased pain tolerance after aerobic exercise, while dots to the right indicate that pain tolerance worsened. 

The big diamond at the bottom is the overall combination of the data from those studies. It’s interesting to look at a few of the individual studies. The first dot at the top, for example, saw basically no change from a six-minute walk. The second and third dots, with the most positive results, involved 30 minutes of cycling and 40 minutes of treadmill running, respectively. The dosage probably matters, but there’s not enough data to draw definitive conclusions.

After that, things get a little tricker. Dynamic resistance exercise (standard weight-room stuff, for the most part) seems to have a small positive effect, but that’s based on just two studies. Isometric exercises (i.e. pushing or pulling without moving, or holding a static position), based on three studies, have no clear effect.

There are also three studies that look at subjects with chronic pain. This is where researchers are really hoping to see effects, because it’s very challenging to find ways of managing ongoing pain, especially now that the downsides of long-term opioid use are better understood. In this case, the subjects had knee osteoarthritis, plantar fasciitis, or tennis elbow, and neither dynamic nor isometric exercises seemed to help. There were no studies—or at least none that met the criteria for this analysis—that tried aerobic exercise for patients with chronic pain.

The main takeaway, for me, is how little we really know for sure about the relationship between exercise and pain perception. It seems likely that the feeling of dulled pain that follows a good run is real (and thus that you shouldn’t conclude that your minor injury has really been healed just because it feels okay when you finish).

Exactly why this happens, what’s required to trigger it, and who can benefit from it remains unclear. But if you’ve got a race or a big workout coming up, based on the study with pain imagery, I’d suggest not thinking about it too much. Hat tip to Chris Yates for additional research. For more Sweat Science, join me on Twitter and Facebook, sign up for the email newsletter, and check out my book Endure: Mind, Body, and the Curiously Elastic Limits of Human Performance.

By: Alex Hutchinson

Source: How to Harness the Pain-Blocking Effects of Exercise | Outside Online

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Critics:

Exercise-associated muscle cramps (EAMC) are defined as cramping (painful muscle spasms) during or immediately following exercise. Muscle cramps during exercise are very common, even in elite athletes. EAMC are a common condition that occurs during or after exercise, often during endurance events such as a triathlon or marathon.

Although EAMC are extremely common among athletes, the cause is still not fully understood because muscle cramping can occur as a result of many underlying conditions. Elite athletes experience cramping due to paces at higher intensities.The cause of exercise-associated muscle cramps is hypothesized to be due to altered neuromuscular control, dehydration, or electrolyte depletion.

It is widely believed that excessive sweating due to strenuous exercise can lead to muscle cramps. Deficiency of sodium and other electrolytes may lead to contracted interstitial fluid compartments, which may exacerbate the muscle cramping. According to this theory, the increased blood plasma osmolality from sweating sodium losses causes a fluid shift from the interstitial space to the intervascular space, which causes the interstitial fluid compartment to deform and contributes to muscle hyperexcitability and risk of spontaneous muscle activity.

The second hypothesis is altered neuromuscular control. In this hypothesis, it is suggested that cramping is due to altered neuromuscular activity. The proposed underlying cause of the altered neuromuscular control is due to fatigue. There are several disturbances, at various levels of the central and peripheral nervous system, and the skeletal muscle that contribute to cramping.

These disturbances can be described by a series of several key events. First and foremost, repetitive muscle exercise can lead to the development of fatigue due to one or more of the following: inadequate conditioning, hot and or humid environments, increased intensity, increased duration, and decreased supply of energy. Muscle fatigue itself causes increased excitatory afferent activity within the muscle spindles and decreased inhibitory afferent activity within the Golgi tendon.

The coupling of these events leads to altered neuromuscular control from the spinal cord. A cascade of events follow the altered neuromuscular control; this includes increased alpha-motor neuron activity in the spinal cord, which overloads the lower motor neurons, and increased muscle cell membrane activity. Thus, the resultant of this cascade is a muscle cramp.

See also

How The COVID Vaccine and Regular Exercise May Increase Effectiveness

And while we’re still waiting for similar studies with COVID-19 vaccines, there’s good reason to believe the same effects would apply, says University of Sydney associate professor of exercise science Kate Edwards, who has extensively researched the links between vaccines and exercise.

Exercise and your immune system

First, it’s important to understand the profound effects of exercise on the immune system. One, Edwards says, is that it puts more immune cells – which kill infected cells and produce antibodies to destroy viral and bacterial antigens – on patrol in the body’s blood circulation. Also, when you work out, your muscles release signalling molecules, called myokines, that help put our body’s defences on high alert. Over the long-term, regular exercise means having a stronger, more responsive immune system.

And this has had repercussions during the pandemic. A US study, published this week in the British Journal of Sports Medicine, examined almost 50,000 patients and concluded that aside from old age or a past organ transplant, physical inactivity was the biggest risk factor for severe symptoms. People who didn’t exercise were more than twice as likely to be hospitalised compared to those who clocked up at least 150 minutes of activity every week. They were also 2.5 times more likely to die of the infection.

The effects of exercise on vaccines

Given all this, it’s perhaps unsurprising that exercise has been shown to improve the efficacy of vaccines. “We see that regular exercise over the course of weeks or months makes vaccine responses stronger and that likely then means you are more protected from the disease,” Edwards says.

A study published last year found that elite athletes had significantly more anti-influenza immune cells after a flu shot compared to other healthy adults. This echoed a 2019 study finding that older adults who trained regularly had a much higher antibody response to healthy adults who didn’t exercise. Consistent exercise after a vaccine is also thought to prolong enhanced protection.

“Vaccination does cause an immune response but because we have more of these immune cells [when we exercise], it’s a much more powerful response,” says Rob Newton, professor of exercise medicine at Edith Cowan University.

Interestingly, exercising on the day of a vaccine has also shown benefits. There’s less evidence for this, Edwards says, but her research suggests it may lead to a stronger immune response, particularly from doing arm movements in the hours before injection.

“You are likely to get more immune cells moving to pick up the vaccine … but also by exercising the muscles where you’ll get the vaccine means you release those immune signals and so it may draw the cells to that location as well.”

“The key is that exercise has no downsides. It gives benefits regardless and the evidence is so strong in a range of other vaccines.”

Professor Rob Newton

What’s even more startling is that being active close to the time of a vaccination – such as flu or HPV – has been found to reduce the risk of suffering from adverse reactions to the jab. Edwards says the effects were observed simply with 15 minutes of moderate resistance band exercise, probably because the immune system was primed and ready for a challenge.

“I would expect exercise in the hour before vaccination and the short period after would have the same effect,” Edwards says. This may be particularly valuable for people who are compromised through age or illness, Newton says.

Preparing for your COVID-19 vaccine

Of course, while this is all compelling evidence, Newton says we can’t be sure the same will apply to COVID-19 vaccines, particularly those that use new mRNA technology, such as Pfizer. “But those pathways still require the involvement of the immune system and the activation of immune cells,” Newton says. “[And] exercise distributes immune factors through the body.”

Newton is frank when he explains how he’ll approach his own COVID-19 vaccine: “I’m already exercising regularly and when it’s my turn to get a vaccination I can tell you I’ll be exercising before I head off to the medical clinic.” He suggests people follow his lead: “The key is that exercise has no downsides. It gives benefits regardless and the evidence is so strong in a range of other vaccines.”

“If you’re particularly worried about a vaccine working well, then exercise is a really good thing to do, but remember it’s important for … all sorts of things.”

Associate Professor Kate Edwards

Edwards agrees: “Certainly what we’ve never seen is exercise making anything worse: immune response or side-effects.” Edwards says because researchers are still exploring why some people are experiencing COVID-19 vaccine side-effects, she recommends not drastically changing your exercise routine on the day of your shot. But if you typically go for a run or do yoga, go for it.

She says it may help to do some light arm exercises close to the time of injection – for example a few sets of wall push-ups, shoulder presses and bicep curls. “Then you might want to consider having a rest day the day after the vaccination because reactions are sometimes being seen 24-48 hours after.”

And while you wait for the rollout to reach you, it’s worth ensuring you have a training routine in place. Australia’s physical activity guidelines for adults aged 18-64 are to have at least 150 minutes of moderate exercise each week, and two resistance training sessions – the latter of which Edwards particularly recommends for promoting immune function.

The bottom line, though, is working out is good for everybody, for myriad reasons. “If you’re particularly worried about a vaccine working well, then exercise is a really good thing to do, but remember it’s important for chronic disease, mental health, socialisation, all sorts of things,” Edwards says.

Newton says people shouldn’t worry that vigorous exercise will stress their bodies. “Unless you’re an elite athlete it’s very difficult to exercise to excess and compromise your immune system.” He recommends older Australians or people with chronic illness set up an exercise program with the guidance of an accredited exercise physiologist.

Sophie Aubrey

 

By: Sophie Aubrey

Source: How the COVID vaccine and regular exercise may increase effectiveness

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Related Links:

Common Ground: a pandemic influenza simulation exercise for the European Union, 23-24 November 2005

R Kaiser, M Ciotti, G Thinus… – Weekly releases (1997 …, 2005 – eurosurveillance.org
… the Commission, ECDC, WHO and the member states in his interview following the exercise.
More exercises at European and national levels will help to apply lessons learned … communication
mechanisms to aid preparations for an emergency such as an influenza pandemic …

Exercising in isolation? The role of telehealth in exercise oncology during the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond

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… Navigation. Exercising in Isolation? The Role of Telehealth in Exercise Oncology During
the COVID-19 Pandemic and Beyond. Kelcey … pandemic. Exercise Support Throughout
the COVID-19 Pandemic: Is Telehealth the Answer? Identifying …

Combating physical inactivity during the COVID-19 pandemic

AJ Pinto, DW Dunstan, N Owen, E Bonfá… – Nature Reviews …, 2020 – nature.com
… with systemic lupus erythematosus 9 . Of relevance in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic,
home-based exercise programmes are feasible and can be effective in promoting health benefits
for patients with rheumatic diseases without causing any important adverse events 2,3 …

Self-management strategies to consider to combat endometriosis symptoms during the COVID-19 pandemic

M Leonardi, AW Horne, K Vincent… – Human …, 2020 – academic.oup.com
… The strategies discussed are not exclusively restricted to consideration during the COVID-19
pandemic … that aim to directly target the problem of endometriosis-related pain are improving
sleep hygiene, low-intensity physical activity (including pelvic exercises, yoga), dietary …

The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on Parkinson’s disease: hidden sorrows and emerging opportunities

RC Helmich, BR Bloem – Journal of Parkinson’s disease, 2020 – ncbi.nlm.nih.gov
… Nevertheless, a loss of aerobic exercise during the COVID-19 pandemic may well … Furthermore,
reduced physical exercise may contribute to increased psychological stress, thereby further …
Promoting home-based and adequately dosed exercises, such as cycling on a stationary …

Loneliness and social isolation in older adults during the Covid-19 pandemic: Implications for gerontological social work

M Berg-Weger, JE Morley – 2020 – Springer
… Having had to quickly respond during the pandemic necessitated the use of technology … delivery
option, traditional interventions can similarly be offered (eg, exercise, dementia care … eg, interactive
photo sharing, support and learning assistants, online-based websites for pairing …

General practice and pandemic influenza: a framework for planning and comparison of plans in five countries

MS Patel, CB Phillips, C Pearce, M Kljakovic… – PloS one, 2008 – journals.plos.org
… Tools [54], [55] and desktop simulation exercises [19] are available to help GPs plan … This aspect
of preparedness was enhanced after the Exercise Winter Willow simulation in … or impede effective
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Pandemic influenza preparedness and health systems challenges in Asia: results from rapid analyses in 6 Asian countries

P Hanvoravongchai, W Adisasmito… – BMC public …, 2010 – bmcpublichealth.biomedcentral.com
… Open Access; Published: 08 June 2010. Pandemic influenza preparedness and health
systems challenges in Asia: results from rapid analyses in 6 Asian countries … PDR in
2006. Pandemic preparedness programme. All countries in …

Have a heart during the COVID-19 crisis: Making the case for cardiac rehabilitation in the face of an ongoing pandemic

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… to their mobile devices more than ever, scrutinising social media, news websites and messaging …
Table 1), to ensure that patients keep themselves healthy during the pandemic and do … With
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PE French – Public Administration Review, 2011 – Wiley Online Library
… opportunities for the inclusion of all stakeholders in decision making, mock community‐wide
exercises and drills … communications, Assess readiness to meet communications needs in
preparation for an influenza pandemic, including regular review, exercise, and update …

Stop Sitting Still & Do These 8 Activities Throughout The Workday

Create a habit of getting out of your chair every hour for a few minutes of movement. Stretches relieve stiffness and mitigate the negative health impacts caused by sitting all day long.

Over the course of the pandemic, many people who previously commuted to office spaces and job sites joined the at-home workforce. Unfortunately, that additional time at home easily equates to more sedentary time.

Whether you work from home or not, if your normal daily schedule has you sitting still for hours at a time, it’s important to make an effort to move throughout your day to avoid the negative health implications of being sedentary, such as an increased risk for cancer. In fact, breaking up long bouts of sitting still with just a little exercise can boost your overall health and fitness.What if, over the course of an eight-hour day, you got up and moved for three minutes every hour?
That’s 24 minutes of exercise daily. Add another 10 minutes of walking or stair climbing before or after work, and you’d be at 34 minutes daily, or 170 minutes per five-day workweek. That’s well over the weekly threshold of 150 minutes, or two-and-a-half hours, recommended by the World Health Organization — without ever setting foot in a gym.
Read on for a practical plan to integrate three-minute movement intervals into an otherwise sedentary eight-hour workday.

1. Get up. Sit down. Repeat

It’s important to get up from your chair at least once an hour. The simplest way to start moving is to make the act of getting up out of your chair and sitting back down into an exercise.
Coaches and trainers call this a box squat. From standing in front of your chair, slowly sit down, making contact with the seat without putting your full weight on it. Then drive through your feet, legs and hips to stand back up. Repeat this movement, at your own pace, for the full three minutes.
If you’re feeling up to it, after a minute or two, you can progress to body-weight squats without the chair. If your chair has wheels, be sure to lock them before performing box squats.

2. Get your heart pumping

Your body is designed to move through three planes of motion: sagittal (front to back), transverse (rotating) and frontal (side to side) so it’s important to exercise in all of them. Think about it: While sitting at a desk, you’re not doing very much side-to-side movement. Everything tends to be right in front of you. Jumping jacks are a simple yet effective side-to-side movement that gets your heart pumping. That said, I’m not recommending you hop out of your chair every hour and immediately start doing jumping jacks.
To avoid the potential for injury after prolonged sitting, first prepare your body for any type of higher-impact activity. Prep time counts toward your three minutes, so spend a minute doing some side bends, lateral lunges and jogging in place before moving into jumping jacks. If jumping is too high-impact for you, modify with alternating side steps rather than jumps.

3. Move your hands to relieve tension

Ever consider that the tension in your hands from all that typing might be contributing to the tension in your shoulders?
Muscles work in chains, so tension can creep up and down your body. When you’re tight or immobile in one area, other muscles have to compensate to help you move. Those muscles then become understandably overworked and tight, setting off a chain reaction of muscular compensation and chronic tension.
To perform hand exercises, focus on one hand at a time. Rest the elbow of the hand you’re exercising on your desk to stabilize it. Make a tight fist and then open your hand and spread your fingers as wide as possible. Repeat five times.
Then make a fist and slowly circle your wrist in one direction five times. Repeat in the opposite direction. Open your hand and use your opposite hand to gently press your fingers back to stretch the inside of your wrist and hand. Hold for three breaths. Repeat pressing your hand forward to stretch the back of your hand and wrist.
Then focus on your fingers. Use your opposite hand to hold and stabilize your wrist as you stick your thumb out and make three circles in one direction and then the other. Repeat this action to the best of your ability with each finger. Repeat all the exercises with your other hand.
Finish by standing up, interlacing your fingers and stretching your arms overhead with your palms facing up. Hold for a few breaths, then repeat with your hands interlaced out in front of you and then behind you.
You may find you struggle with some fingers more than others and that it’s more difficult with your nondominant hand. That’s OK. Do the best you can and you will see improvement over time.

4. Move your feet, too

The same type of muscular chain reaction from tension can happen with your feet. Spending just few minutes a day actively moving your feet and ankles can have a dramatic impact on how you feel throughout your body.
You’ll need to take your shoes off and, if possible, your socks. However, if you work in an actual office, be considerate of co-workers who might not want to see (or smell) your feet!
Cross one leg over the other, focusing on the top foot. Point your toes forward and down, like a ballerina, then flex your foot back to point your toes up, spreading them out as wide as you can. Repeat 10 times. Then slowly circle your ankle in one direction 10 times. Repeat in the opposite direction. Spend a moment focusing on your toes, seeing if you can move your big toe, little toe and other toes independently. Repeat the exercises with your other foot.
Finally, stand up and do 10 repetitions of alternating, shifting your weight evenly to the outsides of your feet, trying to lift the inside edges, then shifting your weight to the insides of your feet while attempting to lift the outside edges. Then do 10 slow, controlled calf raises, lifting your heels and pushing your weight onto the balls of your feet then lowering your heels back down. Place one hand on a chair or wall for balance.

5. Elevate your energy and mood with a dance break

It’s common for both mental and physical energy to wane in the afternoon after lunch. Instead of reaching for that extra cup of coffee or energy drink, why not take an invigorating dance break to one of your favorite beats?
Most songs average three to four minutes, so you’ll more than cover your hourly movement quota. Simply turn on a feel-good jam and let your body move to the music.

6. Practice standing meetings with movement

Now that everyone has discovered Zoom, it’s rare to have a workday that doesn’t include at least one virtual meeting. During those meetings, position your screen on a higher surface, like a kitchen island, so you can comfortably stand for your meeting. While standing, spend a few minutes softly marching in place or shifting your weight from one foot to the other to work on your balance.
If you have regular daily meetings with folks you know well, consider asking if they’d like to institute a movement break. Think of it like the seventh inning stretch at a baseball game. Meeting participants could take turns leading the stretch.

7. Build strength with good old-fashioned pushups

There’s a reason the pushup has remained a staple exercise since its origination more than a century ago. You won’t find many other singular exercises that build both upper body and core strength as well as a pushup. Although challenging, there are easy ways to modify it to ensure some variation of pushup is accessible for most anyone.
Traditional pushups are done on the floor from a plank position with your legs straight behind you and wrists under your shoulders. You bend your arms and stabilize your core to lower your body almost to the floor and then straighten your arms to push back up.
To cover three minutes, do as many pushups as you can with good form for 20 seconds and then rest for 10 seconds. Repeat through six rounds. To modify, you can put your knees on the floor or elevate your hands on a stair or chair seat. You can also do plank holds instead.

8. Take a few minutes to fix your posture and prevent pain

Although you’ve been moving every hour, at the end of the workday, it’s helpful to spend a few minutes proactively recovering from sitting in front of a screen. Focus on movements that open up and unwind that slumped-over posture we tend to take in front of our computers and when looking down at our phones. Do gentle chest and back stretches and twists.
Remember the planes of motion I mentioned earlier? Twisting takes place in the transverse plane, another plane we don’t often move in at our desks. Check out the stretches and twists in this article on movements to offset too much sitting for ideas.

Don’t forget to walk

Walking is one of the most accessible, total-body, fat-burning exercises available to humankind. Every day, try to take at least a 10-minute walk — ideally, outside. If weather or environment are obstacles to walking, consider this simple 11-minute at-home workout as an alternative.
With 24 minutes of movement to break up your workday, adding even a six-minute walk will get you to a nice, round 30-minute mark for daily exercise. After only a week of practicing this plan, you should definitely notice a boost in your overall health and fitness.

Source: How to avoid sedentary behavior — 3 minutes at a time – CNN

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How To Lower Resting Heart Rate: 5 Practical Steps To Take Today

How to lower resting heart rate

Wondering how to lower resting heart rate but not sure where to start? We’ve got the expert answers you’re looking for. Heart rate is a great key indicator of overall health and fitness levels. The heart is one of the hardest working muscles in the body so making sure it’s functioning properly is key.

Your heart rate will naturally spike throughout the day depending on how much you move and other factors such as stress levels and stimulants such as coffee, but it’s your resting heart rate that’s most important.

Resting heart rate simply refers to how many times your heart beats per minute whilst in a rested state. The American Heart Association (AHA) recommends taking your resting heart rate when you wake after a good night’s sleep.

You can check your resting heart rate by holding two fingers against one of your pulse points for a minute and counting the number of beats. However, technology can help provide a more accurate reading. The best heart rate monitors can be used in a resting state as well as during physical activity to help you monitor your heart rate zones, whilst today’s best fitness trackers (which include the best Fitbits) also provide heart-rate stats.

Generally speaking, the lower resting heart rate you have, the healthier your heart is and the fitter you are – although factors such as age can play a role. The AHA advises that for most people, a normal resting heart rate should be between 60 – 100. However, for those who are particularly active – professional athletes, for example – it’s okay for it to be between 50 and 60.

Studies have shown that elevated resting heart rates are linked with higher body weight and blood pressure, along with lower levels of physical fitness. If yours is above the recommended range, then there are steps you can take to reduce your resting heart rate. Here are five practical ways to make a start…

Increase your activity levels

There’s a reason that professional athletes have a very low resting heart rate – exercise strengthens the heart muscle. So just like when we get stronger if we increase other muscles, when the heart muscle gets stronger it means it works more efficiently – pumping blood quicker around the body.

Dr Zoe Williams, an NHS GP and wellness ambassador for Garminagrees: “There are a variety of ways you can lower your resting HR, but fitness is a great way to start.  “While it might seem counterintuitive to exercise, as this usually brings your heart rate up, the more frequently you exercise the more your heart will learn to be stronger and be more efficient at pumping blood. Then, when you’re in rest mode, your heart is more easily able to maintain a lower heart rate.”

If you are new to exercise, start slow. You could try walking to lose weight, download one of the best fitness apps, or try the Couch to 5k beginner’s running plan. Alternatively, work with a personal trainer to build a workout routine that is tailored to you. The key is to find something you enjoy doing to ensure you stick with it.

Eat a balanced diet

Of course, one of the main benefits that people talk about when cleaning up their diet is weight loss – but when you start to eat healthily, it has a major effect on how your heart performs too.

Brad Emmott, a personal trainer and Head of Recovery at Manor London explains: “If you’re someone who carries excess weight, your heart is having to work harder to pump blood through it. If you lose that excess weight, it won’t need to work as hard.”

Rather than drastically changing your diet overnight and restricting entire food groups (which is never usually a good idea), take it one step at a time. Try to see it as a lifestyle change, rather than a diet.Start small by increasing the amount of fruit and vegetables you eat every day – five is the recommended daily intake. This will naturally decrease your consumption of processed foods, which are typically high in salt and saturated fat.

From here, start to ‘balance’ your plate at every meal, roughly aiming for half vegetables, a quarter protein and a quarter carbohydrates – the perfect mix for feeling full and fueled. See our portion size guide for more information.

Decrease alcohol and sugar consumption

Most of us like to enjoy the odd glass of wine or gin and tonic with friends. But the effects of regular drinking – especially above the recommended guidelines (14 units a week for Brits, two drinks a day for US men and one drink a day for US women) – can result in an elevated heart rate, high blood pressure and the weakening of the heart muscle over time.

Williams says that too much sugar can have similar effects: “For some, eating sugar in excess can mean the body interprets this significant rise in sugar and energy as the result of stress, and releases cortisol and adrenaline. These hormones cause the heart rate to increase, which will in turn cause blood pressure to rise.”

The guidance in the UK is that adults should have no more than 30g of free sugars a day. In the US, the recommended daily limit is 10 teaspoons.

Get more sleep

Williams says creating better sleeping habits is key to lowering your resting heart rate. “One of the best ways to promote consistent sleep is having a healthy sleep routine. By following a standard schedule, the mind and body become accustomed to a healthy sleep pattern.”Many of the best fitness watches now also have sleep monitoring, which can be a useful tool in understanding your existing sleep patterns.

“By monitoring your sleep you can track improvements and adjust your bedtime accordingly to ensure you are getting between seven- and nine-hours sleep, which should ultimately help lower your resting heart rate overtime,” advises Williams. The best sunrise alarm clocks can also help to establish healthy and regular sleep patterns.

Manage your stress levels

Whether it’s down to your job, home life or personal issues, stress will take its toll on your health. Emmott believes we need to learn to manage it so it doesn’t negatively impact our resting heart rate and overall health.“Stress of any kind, physical or emotional does increase heart rate and can have long-term adverse effects on your health,” he says.

“There is no way to eliminate stress in daily life, but managing it is important to keeping a healthy heart.”In addition to the action points outlined above, he recommends that meditation, social interaction (virtual included) and being in nature can help manage stress levels.

Once again, using a fitness tracker to help assess your stress levels is also a good idea. “Knowing your stress level can help you identify stressful moments throughout your day and could help identify triggers of your stress, so you can begin to eliminate and manage stressful situations,” Williams says.

“For example, if your stress scores were high, it would be a great time to take five minutes away from what you were doing to do some deep breathing. This doesn’t have to impact your day, you can do it while boiling the kettle, but breaking the chronic stress cycle is so important for your long-term health and short-term mental wellbeing.”

 

 

Source: How to lower resting heart rate: 5 practical steps to take today | Fit&Well

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The Menstrual Month: How To Exercise Effectively At Every Stage Of Your Cycle

The physiological changes that take place around a woman’s period can affect her training. Experts assess when to take it easy – and when you should go hard

When Evgenia Koroleva started learning about her menstrual cycle and the effect it was having on her, week to week, she says: “It blew my mind. Why did I know so little about my body?” A gym owner, Koroleva has since created a training programme based around an individual’s cycle, which she says will optimise results.

Hers is not the first to take the menstrual cycle into consideration when it comes to exercise. Interest has grown hugely in recent years, with elite athletes tracking physiological changes and coaches educating themselves about the effects. For the rest of us, there are apps and cycle trackers, but the area is still woefully under-researched (blame male-dominated medicine and sport).Advertisement

There are also a lot of conflicting results, while almost half of the existing studies are low quality, says Kelly Lee McNulty, a PhD student at Northumbria University, who is investigating the effects of the menstrual cycle on performance, adaptation and recovery. “While performance and training based on the menstrual cycle is such an interesting concept, and very popular at the moment, there’s not enough published high-quality evidence,” she says.

(There is even less on the impact of hormonal contraception on exercise performance, so where we refer here to the menstrual cycle, it is for women who are not on the pill or using an implant.) However, there are generalities that could be helpful for some women. Here is how your cycle may be affecting your workout.

Get to know your cycle

The 28-day cycle is split into two halves – follicular and luteal, either side of ovulation. Very broadly, taking a 28-day cycle as the textbook example, McNulty defines the most-relevant phases as early follicular (days one to five), with low oestrogen and progesterone; late follicular (days six to 12), with high oestrogen and low progesterone; and mid-luteal (days 20 to 23), with high oestrogen and progesterone. “Women are so different; we experience our menstrual cycles differently and a blanket approach is not going to work for everyone,” she says.

Collect your own data, she advises – there are numerous apps, but a notebook is fine – “and then look for patterns”. If one week you can blitz a high-intensity workout and the next you can barely make it through, it doesn’t mean your fitness has gone backwards. If your motivation is suffering, it doesn’t mean you are a failure. It could all simply be hormonal. “Then you’ve got hormone fluctuations daily, so it all becomes more complex,” McNulty says.

Try exercising through the symptoms

“There are more than 150 symptoms, like breast pain, headaches and nausea … potentially, that’s a time to decrease training if you’re not feeling it,” says McNulty. “But then it’s also been shown that moderate-intensity exercise, like yoga, is beneficial for premenstrual symptoms.” Around days three to five of your period, oestrogen starts to increase, “so you might be starting to feel better and up for exercise around that time”. Koroleva says: “Training on your period is a good way to offset your symptoms.”

Push yourself up to week three …

In the late follicular and the mid-luteal phases, oestrogen is higher. McNulty says one of its many effects is to help build muscle mass. “This is when we can really push female bodies,” says Koroleva. “For the first three weeks, we push you in terms of strength training and add cardio to it. Our bodies don’t have a huge amount of testosterone, but it rises during ovulation and this makes it an ideal time to really push, because of the energy levels.”

This is the time when you might set your personal bests and “sail through high-intensity training”, she says. However, it is not a given. “In that mid-luteal phase, progesterone rises; that has its own physiological effects, so you might not notice that difference,” she says. “It’s just being aware of what might work for you.”

… but be wary of injury around ovulation time

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There is some evidence that, when oestrogen is high, around the late follicular phase, there is an increased risk of injury, because the hormone makes ligaments and tendons more lax. For instance, an injury to the anterior cruciate ligament (in the knee) may be more likely. “It’s something to be aware of, but I would never say not to train,” says McNulty. “But if you know this phase might have certain increased injury risks, you could warm up better.”

Take advantage of oestrogen

While it might make you more prone to injury, oestrogen also provides benefits. It is thought to have a positive effect on mood, “so this might increase your motivation to train,” says McNulty. “It has neuromuscular effects as well, so it can signal to increase your ability to activate your muscles. There is evidence to suggest that our ability to recover from training is improved, as oestrogen is thought to have a protective function against muscle damage.” It also reduces the inflammatory response, so it could reduce muscle soreness. “This might mean that we recover more quickly and therefore adapt to training more readily.”

Burn fat

Oestrogen is also thought to reduce the amount of carbohydrate the body uses as the fuel for exercise, instead burning fat. “In theory, it might be that, when oestrogen is high, your body might use more fats for energy – but, again, there are conflicting research findings,” says McNulty. There is some evidence that the metabolism speeds up towards the end of the cycle (and this may be why you get cravings for carbs). “On any weight-loss programme, the point is to put the body into a calorie deficit,” says Koroleva.

However, if you go too far, it can be counterproductive. “If you’re trying to lose weight and you’re in the second phase of your cycle, if you’re doing high-intensity training and you don’t add carbohydrates and increase your calories, your body can actually start to hold on to the weight. It’s almost counterintuitive, but, because of the hormonal changes, the calories need to increase.”

Don’t overheat in week four

In the mid-luteal phase, progesterone rises along with oestrogen. This may limit some of the effects of oestrogen, but it has its own consequences, says McNulty. “It increases your basal body temperature, so, if you’re doing an endurance sport, you might be struggling in a hot environment a little bit more in that mid-luteal phase and you might have to adopt cooling strategies.” Progesterone is also a “calming hormone”, she says. It may increase sleep, but also can affect the way the brain picks up new skills. Trying to perfect a dance routine, or change your golf technique, may be more difficult during this phase.

Take it easy

“After the third week, taper down and do more restorative exercise, such as yoga or pilates,” says Koroleva. “It’s not the time to try to beat any records or do much strength training. If you’re trying to lose weight, it’s a really good time to do long walks and low-intensity training. In a world where we’re surrounded by these super high-intensity workouts and we beat our bodies into the ground, working with your cycle is a much kinder way to look after your body.”

Emine Saner

By: Emine Saner@eminesaner Tue 2 Feb 2021 11.30 GMT

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Joanna Soh Official

SUBSCRIBE for new videos every week! https://www.youtube.com/user/joannaso…​ Ladies, WE ARE NOT MEN! Our body does not function like a MAN, we go through our monthly menstrual cycle, hence our hormones go up and down almost every week. Don’t expect to TRAIN LIKE A MAN! Don’t feel bad when you can’t push as hard on certain days but that also doesn’t mean you should just sit back and do nothing. WATCH this video through to understand the Menstrual Cycle and how we women CAN adjust our exercise routine and also food intake to match our body’s internal rhythms and even help with weight loss. Joanna Soh is a certified Personal Trainer (ACE), Women’s Fitness Specialist (NASM) and Nutrition Coach (VN), with over 8 years experience. Link to 28-Day Workout Plan According to

Menstrual Cycle: http://joannasoh.com/fitness/fitness-…​ Period & Exercising: Everything You Need to Know https://youtu.be/ie9uB2iU97I​ Healthy Ways to Overcome Period Cravings https://youtu.be/nB7cCrik6hM​ __________ Stay Connected & Follow us! Joanna Soh: http://joannasoh.com/https://www.instagram.com/joannasohof…https://www.facebook.com/joannasohoff…https://www.youtube.com/user/joannaso…https://twitter.com/Joanna_Soh​ HER Network: https://www.hernetwork.tvhttps://www.facebook.com/hernetwork.tvhttps://www.instagram.com/hernetwork.tv​ __________ In general, the menstrual cycle occurs in two phases. On average, it’s a 28-day cycle. 1) FOLLICULAR Phase – Day 1 to Day 14 – Go hard! Do high intensity workouts, lift heavy and perform total body strength training. – Your body is more tolerant to pain and muscles recover quicker. – Your body uses Carbs as its main source of fuel. –

You can increase your carb intake slightly especially after an intense workout. 2) LUTEAL Phase – Day 14 to Day 28 – I like to call this phase the “roller coaster” phase. – this is when all the PMS symptoms start to hit: you might crave for sugar or high fat food, you have bigger appetite, you feel sluggish, you have trouble sleeping, your body retains more water, you feel bloated and you might suffer from mild cramps too. – Your body turns to FAT AS FUEL instead of carbs. – Good news, your body is now burning FAT rather than carbs or glycogen. Focus on steady pace cardio to get the most out of your workout. – This is also when the muscle breakdown increases, hence it takes longer for you to recover from your workout. So choose moderation workout that’s less intense. – You might lose your motivation BUT power through your workout, as much as possible, eat well and you WILL feel better.

We are all very different and it takes time to really understand your body. If you have this knowledge, you’re able to take advantage of the hormonal benefits and overcome the challenges by adjusting and changing your workout routine and also food intake. Again, remember this is a guideline as there is very limited research in regards to training with your menstrual cycle. Give it a try, make changes and see what works for you. __________ MUSIC Daily Beetle by Kevin MacLeod is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution license (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/…​) Source: http://incompetech.com/music/royalty-…​ Artist: http://incompetech.com/

Harder Workout Intensity May Not Increase Your Longevity

Good news if you take a more leisurely approach to your workouts: a recent study found that people who performed harder workouts didn’t live any longer, on average, when compared with people who did more moderate workouts. Researchers studied a group of people in Norway who participated in five years of supervised exercise training.

The participants included 790 women and 777 men (with an average age of 73), divided into three groups. Everyone followed federal recommendations to get 30 minutes of moderate exercise on most days of the week. But in addition to that, one group received two supervised weekly sessions of high-intensity interval training. A second group added two supervised moderate-intensity continuous training workouts per week. All three groups continued their assigned workouts for five years.

At the conclusion of the trial, 4.6% of the participants had died, but there was no significant difference in death rates between the group that followed the modest federal exercise recommendations and the two groups that did the more intense workouts. In addition, all groups had similar levels of cardiovascular disease and deaths from cancer.

However, that’s not to say that participating in regular high-intensity workouts wasn’t linked to any benefits. The participants who did the harder workouts had better outcomes on certain measures of mental health and physical fitness.

By: Harward Health Publishing

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Mayo Proceedings

Dr. Carl -Chip- Lavie, Professor of Medicine in the Department of Cardiovascular Diseases at the John Ochsner Heart and Vascular Institute, Ochsner Clinical School and the University of Queensland School of Medicine in New Orleans, Louisiana, in an Editorial appearing in the September 2014 issue of Mayo Clinic Proceedings, clarifies the difference between elite and extreme athletes, and demonstrates that more is not better with regard to exercise. Peak benefits are gained from 30-40 and less than 60 minutes daily of moderate exercise. Available at: http://tinyurl.com/nu74s77

The Best Stretches To Improve Flexibility

Can’t bend over and touch your toes? You might think flexibility is something you’re born with — you either have it or you don’t. While your flexibility level does have ties to genetics (we can’t all be contortionists), you might be surprised to learn that you can build flexibility just as you can build strength, endurance or speed

Just like anything else, developing flexibility takes practice. It takes just as much consistency as does building muscle or getting in shape for a marathon. It may not be easy, but it’s definitely doable, and you can get started with these simple ways to become more flexible. 

Read more: The best ab exercises for a stronger core

1. Start and end each day with static stretches

gettyimages-1167766862-1
Static stretches allow for deep, isolated stretching. Getty Images

Holding static stretches may be the simplest method to improve flexibility. Static stretching includes all flexibility exercises that involve holding a muscle in a stretched position for a substantial amount of time, usually around 30 seconds. This allows you to isolate and deeply stretch a muscle. Starting and ending your day with static stretches — just for 5 to 10 minutes — can make a big difference in how flexible your muscles feel on a daily basis. 

Static stretches you might already be familiar with include: 

Some advanced static stretches include: 

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2. Perform dynamic stretches before and after you exercise

gettyimages-1280798947
Dynamic stretches improve mobility. Getty Images

Dynamic stretches, in contrast to static stretches, continuously move your muscles and joints through their full range of motion. This type of stretching feels much more vigorous than static stretching and may even get your heart rate up. 

Dynamic stretching doesn’t isolate muscles as much as static stretching; rather, this type of active stretching works multiple muscles at the same time and teaches you how to engage your muscles and joints to support deeper and more fluid motion. Performing dynamic stretches before your workout makes for a good warmup, and engaging in a few after your workout helps return your body to its resting state (rather than just stopping cold after an intense sweat). 

Examples of dynamic stretches include: 

3. Mash your muscles a few times each week

gettyimages-985020158
Foam rolling helps break up tight muscle and fascia. Getty Images

You might feel inflexible due to adhesions in your fascia, a type of connective tissue that covers your muscles, bones and joints. What people refer to as “muscle knots” often actually occur in the fascia (though your muscle tissue can develop knotty areas, too). 

If you have a lot of these adhesions, which can develop from long periods of sedentary behavior as well as from intense physical activity, try adding self-myofascial release to your routine. Self-myofascial release is essentially self-massage with the goal of “releasing” those tight knots from your body tissues. You can do self-myofascial release with a foam roller, a lacrosse ball, a muscle roller or a massage gun. 

These myofascial release exercises can help:

4. Practice rotational movements

gettyimages-961070216
Often overlooked, rotational movements influence flexibility greatly. Getty Images

Your ability or inability to fully rotate your spine and ball-and-socket joints (hips and shoulders) greatly influences your overall flexibility level. Your spine, hips and shoulders dictate most of the movements you make on a daily basis whether you realize it or not: Every time you step, reach, bend, turn, sit or stand, you’re using your spine along with your hips or shoulders. If you don’t actively practice rotating these joints, you’re missing out on your potential for flexibility. 

Try these rotational exercises to improve flexibility: 

Creating a flexibility training program

In addition to your usual exercise, such as lifting weights or walking, try dedicating a few minutes each day to flexibility training. Time constraints may make it hard to prioritize flexibility exercises, but if you really want to get bendy, you’ll have to commit to a regular practice. 

Here’s one way to incorporate flexibility training into your workout routine:

  • Morning: 5 minutes of static stretching, focus on the lower body
  • Before workout: 10 minutes of full-body dynamic stretching
  • After workout: 5 minutes of myofascial release on the muscles you worked
  • Before bed: 5 minutes of static stretching, focus on the upper body

By dedicating just a few minutes at a time, you can achieve nearly half an hour of flexibility training each day you exercise. 

You can always slightly cut back on your active exercise time to incorporate flexibility work. For example, if you usually walk for 60 minutes a day, walk for 50 minutes and end your walk with 10 minutes of stretching. In the end, becoming more flexible is all about prioritizing flexibility as a goal.  

By: Amanda Capritto Dec. 4, 2020

The information contained in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended as health or medical advice. Always consult a physician or other qualified health provider regarding any questions you may have about a medical condition or health objectives.

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MadFit

Not flexible? Follow along with this 30 min stretch routine designed to help increase flexibility! Great for beginner’s or anyone in need of a great stretch! 👉🏼THE MAT I USE (Exercise 6X4): http://gorillamats.com?aff=19 (MADFIT10 for 10% off) ⭐️SHOP MY COOKBOOKS! 100+ RECIPES: https://goo.gl/XHwUJg ⭐️ SUBSCRIBE TO MY MAIN CHANNEL (what i eat, recipes, vlogs): https://goo.gl/WTpDQk OTHER VIDEOS: ➤ PREVIOUS VIDEO (“Liar” Ab Workout): http://bit.ly/2klS0xs ➤ AT HOME WORKOUTS: http://bit.ly/2klS0xs ➤ MORE STRETCH ROUTINES:http://bit.ly/2kqnWkl 📷 GEAR I USE: CAMERA: https://goo.gl/rVQzXd 42.5mm LENS: https://goo.gl/oLRc2u TRIPOD: https://goo.gl/ihp5br MICROPHONE: https://goo.gl/fPzkRN GOPRO: https://goo.gl/D6eMwL ✘ I N S T A G R A M: @madfit.ig ✘ T W I T T E R: @maddielymburner ✘ F A C E B O O K: facebook.com/madfit.ig ✉ C O N T A C T (business inquiries): madfit95@gmail.com

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How 305 Fitness Founder Sadie Kurzban Is Pivoting Her Business Model Amid Covid-19 Closures

While hundreds of New York’s boutique fitness studios are still fighting to reopen, one company is resolute to remain shut through the rest of 2020.

“There’s no break even in sight,” says Sadie Kurzban, founder and CEO of 305 Fitness. “At this time, the team and I do not expect to reopen our studio locations before 2021.”

Since August 24, New York State has begun lifting restrictions to allow some gyms to operate at one-third capacity and under specific guidelines, including but not limited to requiring masks during class, upgrading HVAC systems, and allowing for 6-10 feet of social distance in class. Kurzban explains that in an average 305 studio, 10 feet of distance means reducing classes to less than 25% of a normal class size.

“As a business, we cannot cover our usual expenses, plus increased cleaning costs, when we are operating with 25% of a normal class size,” she continues: “We’re not even looking at the 50% break even mark for awhile and we want to preemptively and strategically get ahead of that.” 

Since winning a Stanford business pitch competition in 2011, Kurzban, a Miami native, has signed on investors like Nets star Kevin Durant and celebrity DJ Mark Tiesto. While the fitness brand’s moniker pays homage to the electric nightclub vibes of South Beach, Miami, 305 Fitness is very much a New York-based business with a total of 7 flagship studios across Manhattan. This includes a 5,700 square-foot, two-level studio in Union Square that celebrated a grand opening on February 24, only to shutter on March 12 due to Covid-19.

By April, Kurzban laid off 90% off staff. She continued to offer furloughed workers healthcare and a portion of pay up until August, when officials expressed uncertainty about the future of group fitness classes. “I made the tough call to really brace ourselves,” she says. “We grew this company aggressively into an eight-figure business but now we will take awhile to recover.”

Mayor Bill de Blasio last month announced that while regular city gyms could open on September 2, group fitness studios could not. This mobilized more than 20 companies to form the Boutique Fitness Alliance.

Anne Mahlum, CEO of Solidcore, a workout that focuses on high-intensity strength training, joined the brigade of fitness brands. “We have had 50-plus of our locations open across the country for months and we have had zero instances of Covid spreading in our spaces. This data is powerful,” she says.

With 305 opting to remain shut for the year for financial as well as safety reasons, Kurzban has not joined the alliance. “So many gyms and boutiques are eager to open doors and I understand the feeling of being a small business owner and wanting to reopen… But now is the time to test how strong your community really is.” 

But not all workout concepts are as nimble as 305’s cardio dance workouts. “There are not a lot of options for outside space in New York,” says Solidcore’s Mahlum, “especially since our machines weigh hundreds of pounds and need to be covered if it rains. The humidity is also not good for our machines as it promotes rust.”

And although 305 fans, or self-proclaimed #Fivers, can easily take the equipment-free dance classes At-Home or outdoors, Kurzban agrees exercising al fresco is not enough to sustain its original brick-and-mortar business model. “With overhead, negotiating with landlords and supporting front desk and a cleaning crew for indoors, reopening at a quarter capacity is not a recipe for us to and we can’t continue to lose money on top of enormous loses we’ve already lost.” 

This is why Kurzban is betting on a revenue stream she’s been toying with since early 2020: “Our real big business is certification, so we’re focusing on certifying and empowering individuals in hopes that they can monetize their fitness credentials during this time.”

During the first quarter of 2020, the company was hosting certification programs. Its last training sessions held at its Union Square location in February attracted 75 women from across the country, including one that braved a winter road trip all the way from Los Angeles. The weekend-long program consisted of 8-hour days of rigorous dance as well as business workshops that focused on public speaking, marketing and social-media skills. The live program cost roughly $500, but the digital program launched amid the pandemic costs $190. The company offers scholarships for those who qualify.

So far, the company has certified close to 1000 instructors this year. While this has brought in roughly less than half-a-million dollars in revenue, Kurzban believes she can scale this model and make it a major revenue stream for 305.

“I didn’t know how the energy would translate online,” says Kurzban, “but there are a lot of people out of work, so the ability to do this without equipment or rental space, and lead this fitness movement in a park or in a rooftop at a time when everyone is starving for connection means something.”

The cash-strapped entrepreneur is also training its #Fivers to grow robust followings, and hopefully double-up as free brand evangelists for 305. “Our customer-base of female Millennials can now take this brand and make additional income, which is so empowering and so needed at this time,” says Kurzban.

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Tanya Klich

Tanya Klich

I am the Lifestyle & E-Commerce Reporter for Forbes. I’m a former television reporter for NY1 News, where I covered all things Queens, NY and got my start in business news as a greenroom greeter and PA at Fox Business. I am a graduate of Columbia Journalism School and an adjunct professor at the NYU Arthur L. Carter Journalism Institute. Twitter @TanyaKlich

Source: Forbes

I’m a Psychotherapist Who Sets 30-Day Challenges Instead of Long-Term Goals. Here’s Why

As a psychotherapist, I spend a fair amount of time completing paperwork that convinces insurance companies to pay for someone’s mental health treatment.

In order to help people get their services covered, I have to help patients answer questions like, “How do you hope your life will be different in 90 days?”

Asking people with a mental health problem to look that far ahead can feel like torture. People struggling with depression often can’t see 10 minutes into the future, let alone 3 months down the road.

And individuals experiencing anxiety are often consumed with the future–and they’re usually making catastrophic predictions. They might imagine themselves losing their jobs, becoming homeless, or contracting a rare disease all within the next three months.

But even if you aren’t experiencing a mental health issue, pinpointing how your life will be different 90 days in advance is tough.

Establishing a 30-day challenge can be a more effective way to create positive change. In fact, 30-day challenges (or sometimes 30-day experiments) are how I stay motivated to reach my goals–especially my fitness goals.

Most recently, I set out to see if I could get six-pack abs in 30 days. I hired Robert Brace, a fitness trainer who is known for getting people in shape fast, to help me reach my goal.

And just as he promised, over the course of one month, I saw my formerly flabby stomach morph into a muscular set of abdominal muscles. Almost every day, I could see progress, and it helped me stay on track to reach my goal.

Had I set out to do the same challenge in 90 days, I’m certain it wouldn’t have worked. Having more time would have led to fewer results. Not only do I know this from personal experience and anecdotal evidence from my therapy clients, but science also backs up this notion.

Your Brain Is Designed for 30-Day Challenges

Studies show our brains view time according to either “now deadlines” or “someday deadlines.” And “now deadlines” often fall within this calendar month.

For example, if you have a project due at the end of the month, studies show that you’re likely to start working on it earlier in the month, because your brain tells you that your deadline is looming. You’ll prioritize the project as something that is due “now.”

If however, that same project is due at the beginning of the next month, your brain will categorize it as a “later project”–even if the calendar is set to roll over to the next month within a few days

You’re more likely to procrastinate when it comes to working on the goals you categorize as “later.”

So whether you’re trying to quit smoking, or you want to lose weight, your brain will categorize a 90-day goal as something you can work on later. And if you don’t start out filled with motivation and momentum right from the beginning, you aren’t likely to pick up steam as time passes.

Why 30-Day Challenges Work So Well

Whether your goal is to pay down debt, or you want to start going to the gym, design your own 30-day challenge. In addition to your brain viewing it as a “now” goal, you’re more likely to succeed because:

  • You won’t have time for excuses. When you have a short-term goal, there isn’t time to take days off because you feel tired. And you don’t have time to make up missed work later. You have be all in if you want to reach your goals.
  • Fast progress builds momentum. Your hard work will begin to pay off fast. And when you begin to see results, it’s easier to stay motivated. Building momentum early can help you stay on course and finish your month-long challenge strong.
  • Short-term pain feels tolerable. Working hard to reach a new goal means you’ll have to give something up. It’s easier to give up time with your family or your daily latte when you know there’s an end in sight.

Create Your Own 30-Day Challenge

There are many 30-day challenges that can improve your physical health, mental health, social life, or spiritual life.

And as we approach the beginning of a new year–where many people will be setting gigantic annual goals that they never reach–it’s a great time to launch a 30-day challenge. You might find that a short-term objective is a much more effective way to create big changes in your life.

By: Amy Morin

Source: I’m a Psychotherapist Who Sets 30-Day Challenges Instead of Long-Term Goals. Here’s Why

8.9K subscribers
Dr. Paul Thompson talks about how imaging has revealed the positive effects of exercise on the brain as well as the detrimental effects of stress and cortisol on the brain. For more information visit: http://www.loni.ucla.edu/ http://www.humanconnectomeproject.org/ Photos courtesy of: LONI, the Human Connectome Project For NIBIB’s Copyright Policy: https://www.nibib.nih.gov/policies#co…

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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