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Wanna Live Longer? Just Do Something. Anything, Really

The notion that exercise is good for you is about as well established at this point as gravity, but new research continues to put an ever finer point on it.

 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.”

You can also add this study to the pile of evidence that says too much sitting is literally killing you.

“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.

By: Eric Mack

Source: Wanna Live Longer? Just Do Something. Anything, Really.

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.

About Pack:
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

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How To Cool Down After Exercise

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

Source: How to cool down after exercise

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How Exercise Lowers Alzheimer’s Risk by Changing Your Brain

Senior woman on bicycle by beach

More and more studies are showing how regular exercise benefits the brain, and in particular, the aging brain. What’s less clear is how exactly exercise counters the cognitive decline that comes with aging and diseases like Alzheimer’s.

To find out, for nearly a decade, Ozioma Okonkwo, assistant professor of medicine at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health and his colleagues have studied a unique group of middle-aged people at higher risk of developing Alzheimer’s. Through a series of studies, the team has been building knowledge about which biological processes seem to change with exercise.

Okonkwo’s latest findings show that improvements in aerobic fitness mitigated one of the physiological brain changes associated with Alzheimer’s: the slowing down of how neurons breakdown glucose. The research, which has not been published yet, was presented at the annual meeting of the American Psychological Association on Aug. 9.

Okonkwo works with the 1,500 people on the Wisconsin Registry for Alzheimer’s Prevention (WRAP)—all of whom are cognitively normal, but have genes that put them at higher risk of developing Alzheimer’s, or have one or two parents who have been diagnosed with the disease, or both. In the latest study, Okonkwo recruited 23 people from the WRAP population who were not physically active. Eleven were asked to participate in an exercise regimen to improve their aerobic fitness for six months, and 12 served as the control.

All had their brains scanned to track Alzheimer’s-related brain changes including differences in how neurons metabolized glucose, since in people with Alzheimer’s glucose breakdown slows. At the end of the study period, the group that exercised more showed higher levels of glucose metabolism and performed better on cognitive-function tests compared to the controls.

“We are carrying our research full circle and beginning to demonstrate some causality,” says Okonkwo about the significance of his findings.

In their previous work, he and his team identified a series of Alzheimer’s-related biological changes that seemed to be affected by exercise by comparing, retrospectively, people who were more physically active to those who were not.

In this study, they showed that intervening with an exercise regimen could actually affect these processes. Taken together, his body of research is establishing exactly how physical activity contributes to significant changes in the biological processes that drive Alzheimer’s, and may even reduce the effect of strong risk factors such as age and genes linked to higher risk of neurodegenerative disease.

For example, in their earlier work his group confirmed that as people age, the presence of Alzheimer’s-related brain changes increases—including the buildup of amyloid, slower breakdown of glucose by brain cells, shrinking of the volume of the hippocampus (central to memory), and declines in cognitive function measured in standard recall and recognition tests.

But they found that in people who reported exercising at moderate intensity at least 150 minutes a week, as public health experts recommend, brain scans showed that these changes were significantly reduced and in some cases non-existent compared to people who were not active. “The association between age and Alzheimer’s brain changes was blunted,” says Okonkwo, “Even if [Alzheimer’s] got worse, it didn’t get worse at the same speed or rate among those who are physically active as in those who are inactive.”

In another previous study, they found the benefits of exercise in controlling Alzheimer’s processes even among those with genetic predisposition for the disease. When they divided the participants by fitness levels, based on a treadmill test and their ability to efficiently take in oxygen, they found that being fit nearly negated the effect of the deleterious gene ApoE4. “It’s a remarkable finding because it’s not something that was predicted,” says Okonkwo.

In yet another previous study, Okonkwo and his team also found that people with higher aerobic fitness showed lower amounts of white matter hyperintensities, brain changes that are signs of neuron degeneration and show up as brighter spots on MRI images (hence the name). White matter hyperintensities tend to increase in the brain with age, and are more common in people with dementia or cognitive impairment.

They form as neurons degrade and the myelin that surrounds their long-reaching arms—which helps nerves communicate with each other effectively—starts to deteriorate. In people with dementia, that process happens faster than normal, leading to an increase in white matter hyperintensities. Okonwko found that people who were more aerobically fit showed lower amounts of these hyperintensities than people who were less fit.

Given the encouraging results from his latest study of 23 people that showed intervening with exercise can change some of the Alzheimer’s-related brain changes of the disease, he plans to expand his small study to confirm the positive effect that exercise and better fitness can have in slowing the signs of Alzheimer’s. Already, his work has inspired a study launched earlier this year and funded by the National Institutes of Health that includes brain scans to track how physical activity affects biological factors like amyloid and glucose in people at higher risk of developing Alzheimer’s.

The cumulative results show that “there may be certain things we are born with, and certain things that we can’t change ]when it comes to Alzheimer’s risk], but a behavior like physical exercise might help us to modify that,” says Heather Snyder, vice president of medical and scientific relations at the Alzheimer’s Association.

By Alice Park

Source: How Exercise Lowers Alzheimer’s Risk by Changing Your Brain | Time

How Much Exercise Keeps Our Brains Healthy As We Age – Professor Nicola Lautenschlager

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Staying physically active later in life, by doing around an hour and half of moderate aerobic exercise and a couple of strength training sessions per week, can help keep your brain healthy.

Research has shown that exercise can improve cognitive function in people who are concerned about their memory or have slight memory decline, and can reduce the risk of further decline.

But, until now, there have been no specific guidelines to inform consumers and clinicians about this.

Now, our team, supported by the Dementia Collaborative Research Centre (DCRC), has produced guidelines to help older Australians translate this research into their everyday lives.

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.

The guidelines

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.

Image result for How much exercise keeps our brains healthy as we age

They have been designed in particular for older Australians who are worried about their memory and other aspects of their thinking as they age. This concern is common and often described as subjective cognitive decline (SCD). When assessed medically, for example in a memory clinic, many people with SCD have normal cognition for their age, but some experience objective changes.

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.

Other studies have found exercise leads to a reduction of inflammatory markers in the brain and an increase in brain derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), which aids learning and memory. Researchers have also found some benefits for insulin sensitivity and cortisol regulation.

These guidelines are an important bridge between what research is showing us, and direct consumer benefit. In years to come the evidence on how exercise can support the brain will only grow.

More research effort is needed to identify clearer connections with type and amount of exercise as well as how to overcome barriers to getting started and to stay motivated.

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