As things like whatever you’re reading this on have made us more sedentary, researchers have found that even low intensity physical activity has measurable health benefits, including the biggest benefit of all: a longer life.
A recently published study by an international team found that doing more physical activity – even something as simple as cooking, washing dishes or walking slowly – is linked with a lower risk of early death in middle-aged and older folks.
You may have heard or just assumed that you need to break a sweat or get your heart rate up to the point that you’re panting for exercise to really be of any benefit.
People with busy modern schedules may have a hard time fitting in all that sweating, especially when you add the time it takes to get ready and then clean yourself up afterward.
“It has previously been widely assumed that more is better in terms of physical activity for health,” said Tom Yates, a professor at the University of Leicester and a co-author of the paper, which was published in the journal BMJ. “However, this study suggests health may be optimized with just 24 minutes per day of brisk walking or other forms of moderate-intensity physical activity.”
“Another important finding was that spending 9.5 hours or more each day sedentary – which essentially means sitting – was associated with a statistically significant increased risk of death, with each hour more above this threshold increasing the risk of death further.”
Co-author Charlotte Edwardson, also from Leicester, said the study reinforces the idea that ‘doing something is better than doing nothing,’ even if it just means standing up for a bit at work.
“A large risk reduction was seen between the least and the second least active group suggesting that incorporating some time doing physical activity, light or moderate intensity, in daily life is associated with a big health benefit.”
Living a longer life could be as simple as standing up while you read things like this, so long as you’re not crossing the street.
Gadgets and their ever increasing speed have become firehoses of information. Our nervous systems are awash in bits and bytes by the trillions around the clock whether we’re online or not, awake or sleeping. In this talk, Pack will describe vital behavioral strategies we can re-learn and re-purpose to leverage and focus upon to create virtuous feedback circles.
Pack Matthews is known in Columbia, Missouri primarily as a local musician, yoga instructor and piano tuner, and has recently added the moniker “inventor” to his credentials. His passions are numerous and leave him making hard choices to avoid becoming a jack of all trades. So far he’s keeping them focused on Jazz piano and bass while devoting most of his time to his start- up, mysoulseat.com. He particularly enjoys unearthing the depth of talented people here in Columbia.
TEDxCoMo, held April 6, 2013 at the historic Missouri Theatre in Columbia, Missouri, was produced by Keith Politte and Cale Sears. Event website: TEDxCoMo.org
We learn at school that warming up before training or playing sport is vital, but cooling down is every bit as important. We are taught from childhood that warming up is a must in preparation for any exercise. It allows us to gear our muscles up for the strain we are about to place on them and prevent injury. More importantly, it steadily increases the heart rate and circulation, which loosens joints and increases blood flow to the muscles. These all help towards an effective workout.
But cooling down is as important as warming up. It prevents dizziness, helps return the heart rate back to normal and prevents chronic venous insufficiency (CVI). Also known as “blood pooling”, CVI occurs when the blood in blood vessels expands during prolonged exercise, making it difficult for it to return to the heart from the legs.
According to many health and fitness instructors, the total cool-down period should last three to 10 minutes, or until you are ready to stop. Areas to target depend on which part of the body you trained. For example, if you have been working your legs, you will need to do lower body stretches or a slow walk. There are many helpful tutorials online.
The best way to measure whether you have cooled down effectively is purely based on common sense – if you feel your heart rate has reduced, that’s enough. If you wear a heart rate monitor, that will also tell you once your heart rate has returned to normal. There is no research to prove stretching after a session will help reduce soreness, but if you feel it helps, there is no harm in it, do so – it is down to personal preference.
Cooling down methods, including foam rollers, a sports massage or dry needling are worth investigating. If you experience any pain when stretching, stop, and consult your doctor or a physio if the pain is there the next day, and, more importantly, warm up more thoroughly next time.
By: Callum Nicholls
Callum Nicholls is a trainer at Third Space and Barry’s Bootcamp. Interview by Joti Birdi
No information is to be taken as medical or other health advice pertaining to any individual specific health or medical condition. You agree that use of this information is at your own risk and hold Fitness Blender harmless from any and all losses, liabilities, injuries or damages resulting from any and all claims.
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.
With no specific medications currently available to protect the brain from decline, physical activity is an important aspect of maintaining brain health, along with other lifestyle factors like having a healthy diet, staying mentally active and maintaining an active social life.
If you are considering these guidelines, it is important to remember that any amount of physical activity is a great start, and it is a good idea to slowly build up over time.
While these guidelines have been written with brain health in mind, they can contribute to a range of other health benefits, including improved overall wellbeing and mental health, better physical health and better management of other health conditions.
Aim to do at least 150 minutes per week of moderate or 90 minutes of vigorous aerobic physical activity. This should be combined with trying to be physically active during daily tasks. Moderate is defined as a level of intensity at which one starts to sweat and needs to breathe a bit harder (like fast walking, swimming or bike riding). Vigorous is more intense and involves feeling out of breath (activities could include running, very fast swimming or aerobic exercise in the gym)
Perform additional resistance training (also known as strength training) at least twice a week. This should also be combined with daily tasks that help improve muscle strength
Undertake activities that help improve or maintain balance and reduce the risk of falls, such as walking heel-to-toe or rocking onto heels and toes (ensuring safety by doing exercises near a table or a chair)
Talk to a general practitioner (or physiotherapist or exercise physiologist) before changing your physical activity routine to ensure that your plan is safe and takes your medical history into account.
Because getting started and staying motivated can be hard when it comes to exercising, we suggest selecting enjoyable activities, exercising in a group or with friends, and keeping a diary to track your progress.
How did we write these guidelines?
A team of Australian researchers from various backgrounds and institutions reviewed the current evidence in the literature to produce the guidelines, aided by an advisory committee involving consumers.
This often leads to a diagnosis of mild cognitive impairment (MCI). The changes noticed are not severe enough to cause significant problems with daily tasks and are not the same as dementia. However, both SCD and MCI are associated with an increased risk of developing cognitive decline or dementia in the future.
Why is physical activity so important?
More research is needed to explain in detail why exercise is so important for brain health, but it has been shown to increase the release of protective chemicals and can help keep blood vessels in the brain healthy.
Several neuro-imaging studies using MRI have demonstrated how exercise positively impacts various brain areas. One study reported an improvement of white matter structures, which suggests a close interaction between exercise and the vascular system in the brain.