Does Intense Exercise Increase Longevity?

If you’re looking for ways to increase your lifespan, incorporating intense exercise into a workout routine is something to consider. Vigorous exercise can help improve a range of essential biomarkers, including resting heart rate, blood pressure, body composition, blood flow to muscles, and muscle strength, all of which are important indicators of health and disease.

Before we dive into the relationship between exercise intensity and longevity, let’s first examine what counts as high-intensity exercise.

What counts as vigorous exercise?

Measuring your heart rate before, during, and after your workout is one of the most effective ways to gauge exercise intensity. By tracking your heart rate, you can determine how much effort you’re putting into each workout, as well as what these numbers mean for overall heart health.

Track your heart rate

There are three different ranges of exercise intensity—low, moderate, and intense—and each one has a different set of heart rate zones attached to them. Low- and moderate-intensity exercises are completed with less physical strain, while vigorous exercise is a form of activity that is done with a large amount of effort which results in reaching 70 to 85 percent of your maximum heart rate.

To calculate your maximum heart rate, subtract your age from 220, and this will result in the average maximum number of times your heart should beat per minute during exercise.

Examples of vigorous activity

Generally speaking, high-intensity exercise can be any activity that requires 7/10 effort or higher and is difficult to sustain. You should be short of breath but may still be able to speak in choppy sentences. Examples of vigorous activity include swimming, playing soccer, jumping rope, or running over 5 MPH.

Correlation between exercise and longevity

Increase the intensity to prolong your life

Regular exercise is one of the most beneficial things you can do for your body (other than paying attention to nutrition, of course!). From improved mental health to better sleeping patterns to weight management, there are so many ways that exercise benefits the body. But what about increasing your lifespan?

A recent study showed that women with poor exercise capacity (less than 10 METs) had an annual rate of death from cardiovascular disease of four times greater than women with good exercise capacity of 10 METs or more [2].

Another study showed people who had a higher ratio of vigorous to moderate activity ratio (at least 150 minutes of intense exercise per week) had a lower risk of all-cause mortality, which is commonly used to gauge lifespan [3].

Why does intense exercise reign supreme?

Vigorous activity improves VO2peak, resting heart rate, blood pressure, blood flow to muscles, and muscle strength, all of which are important biomarkers for overall health [4, 5, 6]. These biomarkers have a strong correlation with cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, insulin sensitivity, and even death – and improving these numbers can be helpful for extending your life and healthy years. [7]. Intense exercise also helps with weight management and improves body composition, such as increasing lean muscle mass and boosting metabolism for several hours post-workout.

Athlete’s heart: a natural adaptation

Participating in intense exercise for more than five hours per week may result in a phenomenon deemed “athlete’s heart”. Essentially, vigorous activity causes the heart to remodel over time. The chamber size of the left ventricle, and the muscle mass and wall thickness of the heart increase to pump more blood through the body and meet the oxygen demands of working muscles [8, 11].

When the size of the left ventricle increases, heart rate decreases while still maintaining the right amount of cardiac output. As the heart continually endures this type of physical stress, it may lead to remodeling of the heart or thicker heart walls [8]. It’s important to keep in mind that this is a natural occurrence and can happen as the heart adapts to intense athletic training.An athlete’s heart only becomes an issue if you have a pre-existing heart condition, so consult your doctor before starting (or continuing) to increase your training levels.

Can you do too much intense exercise?

The more you exercise, the better, right? Not necessarily true! There is such a thing as overdoing it, and by pushing yourself too hard, you risk injury, negating your results, reaching burnout, or damaging your heart [9]. In fact, large exercise volumes and vigorous-intensity exercises have both been associated with accelerated coronary artery calcification, myocardial fibrosis, and other potential cardiac maladaptations [9,10].

For those with an underlying cardiac disease, high-intensity exercise can increase the risk of heart rhythm disorders, atrial fibrillation, cardiac arrest, or sudden cardiac death [10,11].

Consult your healthcare provider about identifying any underlying cardiac issues! This will help you understand your physical limits and how best to tailor your training sessions to achieve maximum performance.

To avoid over-training and to achieve maximum cardiovascular results, consider doing moderate-intensity cardio with some vigorous activity sprinkled in a few days per week. This will help to supplement your workouts and take your intensity to the next level without overdoing it. Plus, it will keep things new and exciting. If you find that you’re extra sore and tired after a workout or series of workouts, listen to your body. Sometimes extra rest is exactly what your body needs.

Tips for athletes

If you want to incorporate more vigorous exercises into your routine, here are some ways to (safely) spice things up and get your heart rate pumping:

  • Introduce interval training. Add in some high-intensity exercises to training sessions a few times per week for additional heart health benefits. This will help improve overall performance as well as longevity.
  • Find your target heart rate zone. Take your training to the next level by finding your maximum heart rate and catering your activity levels to those zones. Be cautious to not exceed your maximum heart rate and be sure to pay attention to how you feel during any workout.
  • Recover properly. High-intensity training sessions can be exhausting, so don’t skip the recovery phase! Be sure to drink enough water, eat a nutritious post-workout snack, cool down properly, and take it easy on rest days to avoid injury.

There is no denying the health benefits of physical activity, especially when it comes to high intensity workouts. Incorporating vigorous exercises into your routine can improve your longevity by reducing the risk of CVD, and improving blood pressure, insulin sensitivity, muscle mass, and body composition. Moreover, incorporating high intensity activity throughout the week can help you take your fitness and athletic performance to the next level.

As you continue to work in high intensity exercises into your routine, don’t forget about the importance of adequate recovery, as well as to watch for signs of overtraining, excess fatigue, or changes in your physical or mental health. By listening to your body, you will be able to gauge what it needs the most, which can help prevent injury, improve happiness, and increase lifespan.

By: Sarah Achleithner

Source: Does intense exercise increase longevity?

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Why You’re Gaining Weight Suddenly, According to Doctors and Dietitians

Photo by Malte Mueller/Getty Images

It’s understandable when you gain a few pounds after vacation or if you break your ankle and spend six weeks propped on the sofa bingeing obscure British cooking shows (and the chocolate scones to go with them).

But when you can’t zip your jeans for no freaking reason at all — you swear you’re not eating any more or exercising any less — it can feel like there’s some dark magic at play. You may find yourself standing on the bathroom scale, screaming into the void:

“Why am I gaining weight?!”

Deep breath. You got this.

Most likely, there’s something in your life that’s shifted just enough to make a difference, but not so much that you’d notice, says Alexandra Sowa, MD, an obesity specialist and clinical instructor of medicine at NYU Langone Health. “I see this all the time — you may not step on the scale for a while, and you feel like you haven’t changed anything, and all of a sudden you go to the doctor’s office and notice you’ve gained 10 or 20 pounds,” she says.

But that doesn’t mean it’s your destiny to go up another size every year. Here are some of the most likely reasons for unexplained weight gain, and how to stop it in its tracks.

Your insulin levels may be out of whack.

If you’ve been battling weight issues for a while and none of your efforts are moving the needle, make an appointment with your primary care doc or a weight-management physician, who can assess you for insulin resistance or prediabetes. (Your doctor can also test you for hypothyroidism, in which your thyroid gland doesn’t produce enough hormone, slowing down your metabolism and potentially leading to weight gain.)

“Insulin is the hormone that signals the body to pull glucose out of the bloodstream and store it in the muscles, liver, and fat,” explains Tirissa Reid, MD, an obesity medicine specialist at Columbia University Medical Center and Diplomate of the American Board of Obesity Medicine. “But when you’re overweight, the cells don’t recognize the insulin as well, so the pancreas has to pump out more and more — sometimes two or three times the normal amount — until the cells respond.”

(This is also common in women who have polycystic ovary syndrome — a condition in which the egg follicles in the ovaries bunch together to form cysts.) These high insulin levels keep the body in storage mode and make weight loss more difficult, says Dr. Reid. The beginning of this road is insulin resistance — when your pancreas is working overtime, but blood sugar levels are still normal.

All that extra work wears out the pancreas until it can barely do the job of keeping the blood sugar in normal range. Left unchecked, insulin resistance can lead to prediabetes, in which blood-sugar levels are slightly elevated; if that’s not treated, you can develop full-blown type-2 diabetes.

What you can do: The most effective way to reverse this trend is to eat a diet low in refined carbs and added sugars, and to become more physically active, since muscles respond better to insulin after exercise, says Dr. Reid.

She recommends either investing in a fitness tracker or simply using the one that comes with your phone. “People hear you need 10,000 steps each day, which sounds intimidating, but you can also use it just to see where you’re at and make doable increases,” Dr. Reid says. “If you’re at 2,000 steps, try to go up to 2,500 a day next week and continue to increase.”

Swapping to foods with a lower glycemic index (GI) — which means they’re digested more slowly, keeping blood-sugar levels steady — is also important for controlling your insulin levels. Dr. Sowa recommends these lower-GI food swaps: riced cauliflower instead of white rice; zucchini spirals or shirataki noodles (made from plant fiber) instead of pasta; and pumpernickel or stone-ground whole wheat bread instead of white bread or bagels.

Stress and exhaustion are throwing you off.

If you’re up at night worrying about your aging parents, your hormonal teens, and the general crappy state of the world, this can affect your metabolism. “Stress and lack of sleep can cause a cascade of hormonal changes that change your metabolism and affect your sense of hunger and fullness,” Dr. Sowa explains.

Stress pumps up the hormones ghrelin and cortisol, which increase your appetite and can make you crave carbs; at the same time, it dials down the hormone leptin, which helps you feel full. Not surprisingly, a recent Swedish study of 3,872 women over 20 years found that the more stressed you are by work, the likely you are to gain weight. Stress also affects your ability to get a good night’s sleep, and we know that lack of sleep can also throw off your metabolism rates and hunger cues.

What you can do: It’s easy — just fix the world and make everyone around you kinder and more sane.

Hm, maybe not. But you can manage your stress by downloading a free app such as Pacifica, (now Sanvello) which can help you work toward personal goals such as thinking positively and decreasing anxiety by sending you meditations and visualizations to do throughout the day. To sleep more soundly, you already know you should put down your phone, computer, and iPad an hour before bedtime, but new research shows that shutting out all light — including that sliver of moon through your window — can help with both sleep and metabolism.

A study at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine found that after subjects spent just one night of sleeping in a room with dim light, insulin levels the next morning were significantly higher than those who slept in complete darkness, potentially affecting metabolism rates. So consider investing in some good blackout curtains.

Your allergy pills are to blame.

“We’re not 100% sure why, but it’s believed that histamines, chemicals produced by your immune system to fight allergens, have a role in appetite control,” says Dr. Reid. That means that “antihistamines may cause you to eat more,” she says. A large study from Yale University confirmed that there is a correlation between regular prescription antihistamine use and obesity. Dr. Reid points out that some antihistamines such as Benadryl also cause drowsiness, which could make you less apt to exercise.

What you can do: If you suffer from seasonal allergies and are constantly taking antihistamines, talk to your allergist about alternative treatments such as nasal steroid sprays, nasal antihistamines (which have less absorption into the bloodstream, and therefore less effect on hunger), leukotriene inhibitors such as Singulair, or allergy shots, suggests Jeffrey Demain, MD, founder of the Allergy Asthma and Immunology Center of Alaska.

He also says that managing your environment — using a HEPA filter, washing your sheets frequently in hot water, keeping pets out of your bedroom — can help reduce the need for allergy meds. While you’re at it, do an inventory of any prescription medications you’re taking that are known to cause weight gain (including certain antidepressants, beta blockers, corticosteroids, and the birth control shot) and discuss with your doctor if there are equally effective alternatives that don’t affect weight, says Dr. Reid.

Your portions are probably bigger than you think.

Anyone who’s ever sat in a vinyl booth staring down a bowl of pasta big enough for a toddler to swim knows that portion sizes in America are ginormous. But research from the University of Liverpool published last year found that after being served large-size meals outside the home, people tend to serve themselves larger portions up to a week later, meaning supersizing appears to be normalized, says Lisa R. Young, PhD, author of Finally Full, Finally Slim.

Even if your home-cooked portions have crept up only 5% over the last few years, that can be an extra 100 calories a day, which adds up to more than 11 pounds a year, says Lawrence Cheskin, MD, chair of nutrition and food studies at George Mason University. And the official measure of what’s a “serving” isn’t helping.

“The FDA standards for how many ‘servings’ are in a package of food are based on how much food people actually eat, not how much you should eat,” Young explains. For example, to reflect the growing appetites of the American people, a serving of ice cream was increased last year from 1/2 cup to 2/3 cup. More realistic, perhaps, but still more calories than many of us need.

Here’s what to do: First, Young suggests you spend a few days getting a reality check on how much food you’re actually eating at each meal. “When you pour the cereal in the bowl in the morning, pour it back into a measuring cup. What you thought was 1 cup might actually be 3 cups, especially if you’re using a large bowl,” she says.

Also, instead of relying on a government agency (or the chef at your favorite restaurant) at to tell you how much to eat, learn to listen to your own body, says Young. “Serve yourself just one modest portion on a small plate, and when you’re done, wait 20 minutes,” she says. It takes that long for the hormones in your belly to reach your brain and tell it you’re full. If you get to 20 minutes and your stomach is grumbling, have a few more bites.

You’re eating the right thing, but at the wrong time.

Let’s say you switched jobs recently, and dinner is now at 9 p.m. instead of 6:30. Or your new habit of streaming Neflix until the wee hours also involves snacking well past midnight. Even if you’re not eating more, per se, this change might account for the extra poundage.

There’s a delicate dance between your circadian rhythm (the way your body and brain respond to the daily cues of daylight and darkness) and your calorie intake that can mean that same sandwich or bowl of fro-yo that you eat at lunchtime may actually cause more of a weight gain when eaten at night.

A 2017 study at Brigham & Women’s Hospital found that when college students ate food closer to their bedtime — and therefore closer to when the sleep-inducing hormone melatonin was released — they had higher percentages of body fat and a higher body-mass index. The researchers theorize that this is because the amount of energy your body uses to digest and metabolize food drops as your inner clock tells it to get ready to snooze.

What you can do: There are a few life hacks to keep the late-night snacking to a minimum. Dr. Sowa suggests you commit to writing down every bite you eat after dinner: “Whether it’s on a sticky pad or on an app, keeping track of what you’re eating, how much you’re eating, and how you’re feeling when you eat it will hold you accountable for the calories, and it will also help you figure out if you’re truly hungry or just bored,” she says.

She also suggests capping off your evening meal with a brain-and-heart-healthy tablespoon of Fish Oil. “It’s a healthy fat that coats your stomach and makes you feel less hungry later,” she says.

Your “healthy” food is packed with calories.

You could be eating the cleanest, most organic, dietitian-approved variety of plant-based, or ethically farmed food, but that doesn’t mean the calories evaporate into pixie dust when they go in your mouth.

And in fact, research has shown that when you’re eating something healthy — avocados, salad, yogurt, whole grains — part of your attention to fullness tends to turn off. “Even when you’re eating healthy foods, you really have to pay attention to your hunger and satiety signals,” says Véronique Provencher, PhD, professor of nutrition at Université Laval in Quebec City, Canada.

“In several studies we have found that when we perceive a food as healthy it creates a bias in our own judgment, and we think (consciously or not) that we can eat more of it, no problem. We think a salad is healthy, so we feel we can eat as much as we want with as many dressings or toppings as we want.”

What you can do First of all, treat eating like going to the theater, and turn your phone off — and turn away from the computer or TV screen. “We have found when you are eating and working on your computer or watching TV or on a screen you are disconnected from hunger and satiety clues,” says Provencher.

Something else that may help, other experts say, is to become more aware of portion sizes and what’s in your food. Try the Weight Watchers app, which helps you sort out questions like which “healthy” yogurts are full of sugar and calories, and how much avocado you should spread on your toast.

Weight loss, health and body image are complex subjects — before deciding to go on a diet, we invite you gain a broader perspective by reading our exploration into the hazards of diet culture.

Your age might be a factor.

Each birthday you celebrate brings on one undeniable change: your basal resting metabolism (the rate at which your body at rest burns the energy you take in from food) slows down. “It’s not a dramatic drop,” says Dr. Cheskin. “But as you age, you’re probably also getting less active and more tired, and your body tends to lose muscle mass, which burns calories more efficiently than fat.”

So even if you’re eating the exact same amount of food as you did when you were younger, your body is simply not burning it off as effectively as it did during the glory days of your 20s.

Here’s what to do: You can only budge your BMR a little, but there are a few things you can do to make the math work in your favor. The first is to build up your calorie-burning muscle, says fitness expert Michele Olson, PhD, a professor of sports science and physical education at Huntingdon College. “Keep up cardio three times a week for 30 minutes, but add challenging weight training on top of that,” she says.

Olson recommends these exercises that can be done at home. Start with what you can do and build up to 2 sets of 12 of each, every other day.

  • Chair squats: Sit of the edge of a chair with arms crossed; stand up and sit back down for one rep.
  • Triceps dips: Sit on the edge of a chair, supporting yourself with your arms, slide off, walking your feet out in front of you a few steps; with knees bent and body below the seat, bend elbows; press up until arms are straight. (Use a chair without wheels!)
  • Push-ups, from your knees, or full push-ups, if you can.

Another metabolism-boosting strategy: Replace some of the carbohydrates in your diet with proteins, which take more energy to digest, therefore burning off more calories through diet-induced thermogenesis, as well as making you feel fuller for longer.

Dr. Sowa suggests you eat about 100 grams of protein over the course of the day, filling your plate with lean chicken, fish, shrimp, or plant-based proteins such as garbanzo beans, tempeh, and edamame, to give your meals more metabolism bang for your buck. This may only add up to a weight loss of a few pounds a year, but combined with exercise, the cumulative effect can be significant, says Dr. Sowa.

Marisa Cohen is a Contributing Editor in the Hearst Health Newsroom, who has covered health, nutrition, parenting, and the arts for dozens of magazines and web sites over the past two decades.

By : Marisa Cohen  Good Housekeeping

Source: Why You’re Gaining Weight Suddenly, According to Doctors and Dietitians

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A Brain Expert Shares His 7 Hard Rules For Boosting Memory and Fighting Off Dementia

caracterdesign | Getty

The average human brain shrinks by approximately 5% per decade after the age of 40. This can have a major impact on memory and focus. What’s more, brain disorders are on the rise. In 2020, 54 million people worldwide had Alzheimer’s disease or other dementias, and that number is expected to grow.

But serious mental decline doesn’t have to be an inevitable part of aging. In fact, certain lifestyle factors have a greater impact than your genes do on whether you’ll develop memory-related diseases. As a neuroscience researcher, here are seven hard rules I live by to keep my brain sharp and fight off dementia.

1. Keep blood pressure and cholesterol levels in check

Your heart beats roughly 115,000 times a day, and with every beat, it sends about 20% of the oxygen in your body to your brain. High blood pressure can weaken your heart muscle, and is one of the leading causes of strokes. Ideally, your blood pressure should be no higher than 120/80.

Cholesterol is critical to your brain and nervous system health, too. The American Heart Association recommends getting your cholesterol levels measured every four to six years.

2. Manage sugar levels

Blood sugar is the primary fuel of the brain. Not enough of it, and you have no energy; too much, and you can destroy blood vessels and tissue, leading to premature aging and cardiovascular disease.

Keep in mind that sugar isn’t enemy, excess sugar is. It’s easy for grams of sugar to add up, even if you think you’re being careful — and usually, sugar will sneak in through packaged foods.

Where is the sugar hidden? Look for these in the ingredients list:

  • Dextrose
  • Fructose
  • Galactose
  • Glucose
  • Lactose
  • Maltose
  • Sucrose

And be wary of any product that includes syrup, such as agave nectar syrup or high-fructose corn syrup.

3. Get quality sleep

Studies show that people with untreated sleep apnea raise their risk of memory loss by an average of 10 years before the general population. For most people, a healthy brain needs somewhere between seven and nine hours of sleep a night.

My tips for memory-boosting, immune-enhancing sleep:

  • Keep a consistent bedtime and wake-up schedule.
  • Turn off devices one hour before bedtime.
  • Do something relaxing before bedtime, like listening to soft music or doing mindful breathing exercises.
  • Go outside and get in natural sunlight as soon as you can after waking up.

4. Eat a nutritious diet

One way I keep things simple is to have most, if not all, of these items in my grocery cart:

  • Fatty fish like salmon
  • Avocados
  • Nuts
  • Blueberries
  • Cruciferous veggies like arugula, broccoli, Brussels sprouts and collard greens

When food shopping, I ask myself three questions to help determine whether something is good for my brain:

1. Will it spoil? In many cases, perishable is a good thing. The additives and preservatives that keep food from spoiling wreak havoc on your gut bacteria.

2. Are there tons of ingredients in that packaged food? And for that matter, can you pronounce the ingredients? Or does it look like the makings of a chemical experiment? Also avoid anything where sugar is one of the first few ingredients.

3. Do you see a rainbow on your plate? The chemicals that give fruits and vegetables their vibrant colors help boost brain health.

5. Don’t smoke (and avoid secondhand and thirdhand smoke)

Smokers have a 30% higher risk of developing dementia than non-smokers. They also put those around them at risk: Secondhand smoke contains 7,000 chemicals — and at least 70 of them can cause cancer.

Then there’s thirdhand smoke, which is not actually smoke. It’s the residue of cigarette smoke that creates the telltale smell on clothing or in a room. That residue alone can emit chemicals that are toxic to the brain.

6. Make social connections

In a recent study, people over the age of 55 who regularly participated in dinner parties or other social events had a lower risk of losing their memory. But it wasn’t because of what they ate, it was the effect of the repeated social connection.

To lessen isolation and loneliness, you can also boost brain chemicals like serotonin and endorphins by performing small acts of kindness:

  • Wish others well or check in with somebody.
  • Give a compliment without expecting anything in return.
  • Make a phone call to somebody you don’t usually reach out to.

7. Continuously learn new skills

Maintaining a strong memory is not all about brain games like Sudoku, Wordle and crossword puzzles.

Learning skills and acquiring information are much more effective ways to make new connections in the brain. The more connections you make, the more likely you are to retain and even enhance your memory.

When you think about learning something new, approach it the way you would with fitness training. You want to work out different muscles on different days. The same goes for the brain.

Over the course of this week, try cross-training your brain by mixing mental activities (learning a new language or reading a book) and physical learning activities (playing tennis or soccer) .

By: Marc Milstein

Marc Milstein, PhD, is a brain health expert and author of “The Age-Proof Brain: New Strategies to Improve Memory, Protect Immunity, and Fight Off Dementia.” He earned both his PhD in Biological Chemistry and his Bachelor of Science in Molecular, Cellular, and Developmental Biology from UCLA, and has conducted research on genetics, cancer biology and neuroscience. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram.

Source: A brain expert shares his 7 ‘hard rules’ for boosting memory and fighting off dementia

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Feeling Cold: Why Some People Feel Cold All The Time

Feel freezing cold all the time? Can’t seem to warm up? We explain why some of us feel colder than others, even when the heating is on full blast. With so many of us working from home, deciding when to turn on the central heating is a now a crucial part of the day. You get to 10am and you start to wonder why you’re still freezing… and if it’s too early to switch the dial on.

I’m freezing pretty much all the time, winter or not. I can’t feel my fingers in spring and I still need a jacket during July’s heatwave evenings. I won’t even begin to tell you how many layers I wear when I go skiing. Yet, my housemate can walk down the street in shorts in December, and others sweat the second they put a coat on.So why do some people just seem to feel the cold more than others – and what does it mean?

Finding out what is ‘normal’ when it comes to our temperature is pretty tricky though, explains Dr Clare Eglin from the Extreme Environments Laboratory in the Health and Exercise Science department at the University of Portsmouth. While our core temperature should ideally not change, “our perception of whether we find somewhere warm or cool is very individual and usually down to our skin temperature,” Dr Eglin says.

“This is what gives our body feedback, and lots of things can affect that from the clothes that we are wearing to the activities we are doing – and also the wind and dampness of the environment.” However, there are genetic and personal factors that can mean that two people, wearing the same thing, in the same environment feel different temperatures.

Why do some people feel colder than others?

Everyone’s body has a slightly different reaction to cold and some people feel cold more often than others, which is known as cold intolerance.

There are many factors  that contribute to this, including:

  • Overall body size can impact how cold you feel, as smaller people have less cells in their body that produce heat
  • People with higher levels of body fat and/or muscle mass have more insulation and a higher resting metabolic rate so burn energy faster
  • Being active not only warms the body immediately but can have a long-term effect on temperature regulation
  • Older people also tend to have a slower resting metabolic rate, so may feel the cold more

These factors do mean that gender is a big divider, as women are generally smaller than men and carry less muscle mass. We’ve all fought over the thermostat in the office (or central heating while at home) but the fact is that “the temperature deemed comfortable for most people is meant to be about 21 degrees. Actually, that’s ideal for a man in a suit, but women generally do better with a higher temperature,” says Dr Eglin.

Interestingly, we feel this disparity internally too. “Estrogen and progesterone, which change throughout the menstrual cycle, affect how quickly our blood vessels constrict to the cold. So depending what part of the menstrual cycle you’re in, you might find your hands and feet get colder, affecting your overall temperature perception,” says Dr Eglin.

Plus, your temperature perception can change throughout the day. “For instance, at six o’clock in the morning your core temperature is at its lowest, and from midday to mid-afternoon, it’s at its highest,” she adds.

Why do my hands feel cold?

Don’t panic if, like me, you have hands like ice cubes on a summer’s day. “It is a very typical thing, particularly for women, as our hands are really good for regulation,” says Dr Eglin. Our hands have a large surface area but a small volume and are filled with lots of blood vessels very close to the surface of the skin. “They’re very good for losing heat and so therefore, when you’re slightly cool, the blood flow shuts down,” she says.

While “peripheral temperature is generally nothing to worry about”, it can be a sign of Raynaud’s syndrome, an extreme response to cold or stress where arteries narrow to the point that fingers and toes turn white or blue and feel cold and numb – but circulation returns to normal when warm again.

Is it bad to be cold all the time?

Generally, being cold is simply down to our body type, and as long as we take precautions it’s not a bad thing. But if constant coldness is mixed with other symptoms it could be a sign of something more serious. For example, coldness paired with tiredness or dizziness could be a symptom of an iron or B12 deficiency, or even anaemia.

Constantly being cold coupled with hair loss, a change in your digestive system and weight gain could also be a sign of a low thyroid – when the gland stops producing enough thyroxine (a hormone which regulates your metabolism).

Ultimately, your body is pretty good at regulating itself, so trust what it’s telling you. “Our behaviour is the most important thing when it comes to keeping warm. I think quite often we underestimate the weather in the UK. You always hear people say ‘It’s not that bad, it’s not like we’re in the Arctic!’, but with the windchill and dampness it can be very cold. We don’t pay enough attention to that,” says Dr Eglin. So, bundle up when you’re feeling the chill.

By: 

Chloe Gray is the senior writer for stylist.co.uk’s fitness brand Strong Women. When she’s not writing or lifting weights, she’s most likely found practicing handstands, sipping a gin and tonic or eating peanut butter straight out of the jar (not all at the same time).

Source: Feeling cold: why some people feel cold all the time

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Related contents:

Wellbeing of Women, registered charity no. 239281. Charity Commission for England and Wales.

“Your Wellbeing”. Wellbeing of Women. Retrieved 4 November 2012.“Her Royal Highness the Countess of Wessex becomes Royal Patron”.

Archived at Ghostarchive and the Wayback Machine: The Countess of Wessex discusses taboos around women’s health. YouTube.

“Ambassadors Wellbeing of Women”. Wellbeing of Women. Retrieved October , 2022.Our achievements”. Wellbeing of Women. 2014-06-20. Retrieved 2016-12-14.

“Vitamins and minerals – B vitamins and folic acid – NHS Choices”. Nhs.uk. 2015-02-18. Retrieved 2016-12-14.

“Epidural anaesthesia – NHS Choices”. Nhs.uk. 2016-11-24. Retrieved 2016-12-14.“Our history”. Wellbeing of Women. 2014-06-20. Retrieved 2016-12-14.

“100 WHF Late Summer Garden Party” (PDF). 100womeninhedgefunds.org. Retrieved 2016-12-14.“Prince William to become Patron of the 2008 Lord Mayor’s Appeal”. Archived from the original on 2016-03-08.

“Baby Biobank”. Ucl.ac.uk. 2013-11-01. Retrieved 2016-12-14.“Wellbeing of Women”. Pwc.co.uk. Retrieved 2016-12-14.

“The British Home Store”. BHS. Retrieved 2016-12-14.“The British Home Store”. BHS. Retrieved 2016-12-14.“Events”. Wellbeing of Women. 2016-12-05. Retrieved 2016-12-14.

“Events”. Wellbeing of Women. 2016-12-05. Retrieved 2016-12-14.“The Inaugural Annual Sir George Pinker Memorial Address”. Wellbeing of Women. Retrieved 4 November 2012.

“BBC Radio 4 – Radio 4 Appeal, Wellbeing of Women”.“Employers must help staff going through the menopause, says Sophie”. The Times. Retrieved October 19, 2022.

YouTube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AOnLnys5OZk&t=1045s. (help)https://www.wellbeingofwomen.org.uk/campaigns/menopausepledge.

“BBC, Tesco and Royal Mail sign pledge to help female staff during menopause”. The Times. Retrieved October 19, 2022.BBC News https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-61792540. Retrieved October 19,

Wellbeing of Women https://letschatmenopause.wellbeingofwomen.org.uk/. Retrieved October 19, 2022.“Penny Lancaster among famous faces fronting menopause awareness campaign”. Evening Standard. Retrieved October 19, 2022.

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How To Increase Your Range of Motion And Why It’s Central To Your Health

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Heard of the phrase: range of motion? This term, which is often shortened to ROM, refers to how much joint and muscle movement you have.

How much flexibility you have in your joints will differ from person to person, with one study conducted by the CDC (opens in new tab) revealing that your ROM can be influenced by your gender, age and lifestyle. If you’re trying to improve your ROM, massages, stretching and using some of the best foam rollers can help you work towards increasing your overall flexibility.

Along with helping you complete daily tasks, like bending down to tie your shoe, your ROM can also help to reduce the feeling of joint stiffness, improve muscular function and help you live a better quality of life.

So, to discover how to increase your ROM we decoded the science and spoke to certified fitness trainer Nicole Thompson from the American Council on Exercise (opens in new tab) (ACE) and Helen O’Leary, physiotherapist and Pilates instructor at Complete Pilates (opens in new tab).

What does range of motion mean?

Thompson says: “Range of motion can be defined as ‘the number of degrees through which an articulation will allow one of its segments to move’.”

But to help understand this term a little more, Thompson recommends thinking about the meaning of flexibility, as the two concepts are closely related. “Flexibility is the ‘ability to move joints through their normal full ranges of motion’,” Thompson tells us. “So typically, the more flexible you are, the better your range of motion. Essentially, ROM is a reflection of flexibility.”

How do you know whether you have a good ROM? “There is an ideal length of muscle fiber in which the muscle will function optimally,” Thompson says. “However, if the fibers are too short (or sometimes too long) that can cause stiffness in the muscle and therefore limit the range of motion a joint will have. If the muscle fibers are at an optimal length and have enough elasticity, the muscles will allow the joint to move to optimal degrees.”

Nicole Thompson is an ACE Certified Personal Trainer, Medical Exercise Specialist, Group Fitness Instructor, and Health Coach as well as an ACE Senior Fitness Specialist and Fitness Nutrition Specialist. She holds an M.A. in Sport and Performance Psychology and studied Fitness Instruction/Exercise Science at the University of California, San Diego. Her love of health, fitness, and learning landed her at the American Council on Exercise in 2015 where she continues to cultivate those passions.

Why is range of motion important?

As we’ve seen, maintaining good flexibility is super important, especially as we age. And the best flexibility exercises can help you stay on top of your ROM.

As Thompson explains: “Range of motion is the result of flexibility. And flexibility is an essential component of fitness and one’s ability to perform activities of daily living. A flexibility routine can help improve ROM, reduce stiffness and injury, improve muscular function and can even improve your mood.”

But not staying on top of your flexibility can lead to health and wellbeing problems later down the line. Thompson tells us: “If there are muscle imbalances, as a result of altered muscles lengths/length-tension relationships around the joint, that alters the joint mechanics, which result in postural misalignments, faulty loading, and ultimately pain, injury, and/or compensation.”

How can you improve your range of motion?

1. Massage can help with your range of movement

If done consistently and by a professional, massages can help increase your ROM. Thompson says: “Massage can help relax muscles by increasing blood flow to muscles, decreasing knots (which are believed to be inflammation or microtrauma to muscle fibers that can restrict ROM), and can help fascia be more pliable. Fascia is a connective tissue that covers all the body’s compartments like a web.”

And research backs this point up. The Journal of Physical Therapy Science (opens in new tab) published a study which looked into the effect of massage therapy on the range of motion of the shoulder and concluded that massage therapy ‘significantly improved the shoulder range of motion, especially the flexion and abduction’. While a second review, published in Frontiers in Physiology (opens in new tab), concurred, stating that even with just 15 minutes of massage some increases in ROM were spotted.

2. Use of a foam roller

Foam rollers are a form of self-myofascial release technique and can be adopted as part of a warm up or recovery program.

According to one review published in Frontiers in Physiology (opens in new tab), foam rollers can also be used to ‘increase your ROM’ by performing simple back and forth movements over the roller to ‘exert mechanical pressures on soft tissues via the weight of the body (or the force of the upper limbs)’.

And Thompson agrees, adding: “Myofascial release, whether done by foam rolling or massage, attempts to relieve tension and thus improve flexibility.”

3. Drinking more water

We all know that drinking water is important to our overall health. But it’s believed that guzzling down some H2o can also work towards increasing your ROM.

“Since water is present and needed in tendons, ligaments, and muscles — proper hydration can help optimize muscle performance,” Thompson says. “Water can also help lubricate joints and tissues so they can be more elastic.”

In fact, a study published in the Journal of Human Kinetics (opens in new tab) revealed that collagen fibers are influenced by hydration levels and might be responsible for the cause of stiffness.

Thompson adds: “Conversely, it’s common to get muscle cramps (involuntary contracting/shortening of the muscle) when you are dehydrated. Muscle cramps usually indicate to endurance athletes that they need water and electrolytes. Which further supports the idea of water contributing to muscle pliability.”

4. Stretching

One of the best ways to improve your ROM? By having a first-class stretching routine. According to Thompson, flexibility programs should include various forms of stretching such as:

  • Static stretching (which involves stretching a muscle to near its furthest point and then holding that position for at least 15 or 20 seconds).
  • Proprioceptive Neuromuscular Facilitation (PNF). This is a passive form of stretch that requires contraction and relaxation of muscles to their limit against a prop or partner.
  • Myofascial release (using a foam roller).

Best stretches to increase your range of motion

Wondering where to start when it comes to your stretches? O’Leary recommends adding the below to your routine to hit different areas of your body.

Helen O’Leary is a chartered physiotherapist and Pilates instructor/director of Complete Pilates (opens in new tab) in London. She graduated from Birmingham University in 2008 and in 2010 completed her Polestar Pilates Rehabilitation course and began to teach both mat and equipment Pilates. At Complete, O’Leary works with clients before and immediately after surgery to optimize their recovery.

  1. Bouncing roll down. This will help you touch your toes easier. O’Leary says: “Roll down towards the floor and let your arms hang, accepting that you probably aren’t touching the floor. Let one knee bend and keep the other straight to reach towards the floor. Lift your body up a little, switch knees and bounce back down again. Keep repeating 10 times before letting yourself hand and slowly coming back up. Try to keep the bounce smooth and not force anything.”
  2. Cat cow. This will stretch out your spine. O’Leary explains: “Get on all fours, tuck your tailbone under and allow your spine to arch towards the ceiling. Press into your hands to encourage your mid back to lift as well. From your tailbone, open your sit bones and let your spine go the other way into extension. try to keep pressing into your hands so that you don’t sag between them and lift your chest up and towards the ceiling. Keep your gaze somewhere in front of you so that you aren’t overextending your neck.
  3. Banded dislocations. This stretch will tackle your shoulders and chest. O’Leary adds: “Hold onto the ends of a long band. The longer or lighter the band the easier the movement will be. Take your hands up in front of you, pull apart and then go towards the ceiling and back behind you. Reverse the movement bringing them back up towards the ceiling and down in front of you. The more you pull apart the more you are likely to get round so make sure you find a place that is a challenge but possible without you bending your elbows.”

By: Becks Shepherd

Becks is a freelance journalist and writer writing for a range of titles including Stylist, The Independent and LiveScience covering lifestyle topics such as health and fitness, homes and food. She also ghostwrites for a number of Physiotherapists and Osteopaths. When she’s not reading or writing, you’ll find her in the gym, learning new techniques and perfecting her form.

Source: How to increase your range of motion — and why it’s central to your health | Live Science

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