Thursday, September 24, 2020

Mental Health Benefits of Exercise


A Brief Review On The Importance Of Exercise

According to the National Institutes of Health, aerobic exercise and other forms of movement are linked to a reduction in depression and anxiety. Getting your body moving and engaging in exercise comes with a series of other health benefits.

While your mental health certainly reaps advantages, so does your emotional health and physical health. As you can imagine, different types of health are inherently tethered to one another. This means that your emotional and physical health can impact your mental health and vice versa. For these reasons, getting regular exercise can only help you.

If you are not used to exercising or are unsure of where to begin, don’t worry. The benefits of exercise are not mutually exclusive to an intense and rigorous movement. Light stretching, jogging in a park, or running for ten minutes on a treadmill a few times per week can work wonders. Exercise can work miracles at all levels; as you progress, you may find yourself feeling ready to take on more intense levels of physical activity, but if not, that’s OK too.

Why Does Mental Health Matter?

Understanding the leading mental health benefits of exercise is all well and good. However, for this information to stick, it’s equally critical to know why mental health is so important. Having a complete understanding of how much mental health impacts your life can be a motivational factor as you seek to reap applicable benefits from exercise.

Psychology Today explains that the presence of a healthy mind allows human beings to understand life experiences, stay in touch with their emotions, and more. High quality of mental health allows you to process things clearly and move through the world productively. Being a mentally healthy individual impact the way you feel about yourself, how you interact with others, and so much more.

By exercising regularly, you can actively take steps to improve your mental health. Believe it or not, every little bit counts, even if you are not consciously aware of the benefits that each session of exercise has on your mental health.

The Leading Mental Health Benefits Of Exercise

Science, psychology, and other studies have documented the positive impacts that aerobic exercise and other forms of physical movement have on mental health. Since the importance of exercise and mental health have been individually covered, it’s not imperative to note the top six mental health benefits of exercise.

No matter who you are, what your lifestyle is like, or what challenges you may be facing, there is always room for regular exercise to help your mental wellbeing. With that in mind, you deserve to know about the following six mental health benefits.

Stress Reduction

Cutting back on stress is one of the most important mental health benefits that you can get from aerobic exercise and other forms of physical activity. The American Psychology Association explains that 44% of adults engage in walking or other forms of exercise to cope with stress.

The reduction of stress can only positively improve the quality of your life and mental health. This is why regular exercise can improve your interpersonal relationships, manner of processing information, and your ability to deal with challenges. Each of these factors impacts your ability to move through the world and productively carry yourself. Exercise helps in many ways, but the reduction of stress most certainly takes the cake.

Clearer Thoughts And Memories

Another of several mental health benefits of getting in exercise includes clearer thoughts and memories. When you get your body moving, endorphins are released. Now, while these endorphins make you feel better physically, they also improve concentration skills and help foster new brain cell growth. Having clearer thoughts and memories is both great for your mental health, but also helpful for combating certain declines linked to aging.

Better Sleep At Night

Getting a high-quality, proper night’s rest is another one of the benefits of exercise. Because regular exercise increases the physical temperature of your body, your brain can have an easier time winding down when you want to sleep at night.

Additionally, another one of the sleep-related health benefits of exercise includes circadian rhythm regulation. Each person’s circadian rhythm determines when they feel sleepy and awake. In the long run, getting a consistently great night’s rest can benefit not only your mental health but also your emotional and physical health.

Allows For Connections With Other People

Interpersonal relationships — or lack thereof — play a vital role in the mental health of any individual. Thankfully, exercise paves the way for you to connect with other human beings, if this is something you’re interested in.

Granted, some people do choose to exercise alone, but there are several ways to get your body moving with others. Taking workout classes regularly or signing up for a gym membership can help you connect with other human beings. In the long run, these positive relationships can pave the way to better social skills or connections that you previously didn’t have. As you can imagine, all of this can impact the quality of your mental health and how you see the world.

Helps You Learn More About Yourself

Being in touch with who you are playing a vital role in your mental health. If you’re interested in learning more about yourself, then you will certainly want to partake in regular exercise.

As you’ve probably gathered by now, not all forms of exercise are the same. Some people prefer light exercise or aerobic exercise. Others find that getting in more intensive exercise such as high-intensity interval training (HIIT) is more beneficial for them. No type of exercise is inherently “better” than the other. The type of regular exercise that you choose to engage in is up to you; however, it can help you learn more about yourself and your interests.

In the long run, this information can be good for gaining a stronger sense of self-awareness, something which greatly impacts mental health.

Reduces Your Likelihood Of Physical Health Issues

As previously stated, all forms of your health — whether physical, emotional, or mental — are interconnected with one another. This is why a reduced likelihood of suffering from physical health issues is listed as a top mental health benefit of exercise.

Physical health issues can play a very real role in the quality of someone’s mental health. People with concerns about their ability to function, provide for themselves and/or their loved ones, etc. can suffer from mental health issues like depression or anxiety. However, getting your body moving regularly can reduce the likelihood of dealing with subsequent mental health problems.

Sometimes, prevention can be one of the greatest benefits of all. Taking care of your physical health can ultimately help you afford the luxury of bypassing certain mental health issues. Taking care of yourself always pays off, even if you are not immediately or consciously aware of its benefits.

A Final Word On Exercise And Mental Health

The benefits of exercise on mental health are undeniable; however, getting your body moving regularly does not automatically mean that you’ll never deal with any challenges in life. Left unchecked, these challenges can take a toll on your physical, emotional, and mental health. Exercise certainly plays a very powerful role in the quality of mental health; however, it is not the only determining factor or end-all.

Tuesday, September 15, 2020

Stability Core Exercises


Developing core strength is essential for everyday health and well-being, as a strong core protects the spine, reduces back pain, enhances movement patterns, and improves balance, stability and posture.

There are many methods for developing core strength, as well as various pieces of equipment that assist in that development. However, there are plenty of exercises that require only body weight or basic equipment. The most important thing to remember when training the core is to avoid using momentum and instead perform each exercise with awareness so that the core is actually braced or engaged.

The following seven core stability exercises can be added to your current workout routine. If some of these exercises feel too challenging, try the regressed version given in italics. If the featured equipment is not available, use your own body weight. 

BOSU Bird Dog

Focus: Core stability
How to Perform: Set your right knee on the center of the dome and place both hands on the floor underneath the shoulders. Extend the left leg behind you to hip height; keep the foot flexed. Raise the right arm to shoulder height with your thumb facing the ceiling. Hold for 20 seconds and switch sides.
Regression: Perform the exercise on the floor.

Supine Toe Taps

Focus: Core stability
How to Perform: Lie on your back and place your arms by your sides. Engage the abdominals and draw the navel toward your spine. Lift the knees to 90 degrees. On a two-count, lower your right foot to touch the floor, and on a two-count, return it back to 90 degrees. Perform the same movement with your left leg and continue to alternate tapping the right and then the left foot onto the floor. Perform 10 reps on each leg.
Regression: Keep your feet on the floor, and slide your heel on the mat, alternating legs.

Marching Hip Bridge

Focus: Lumbo-pelvic stability
How to Perform: Lie on your back and place your hands by your sides. Lift the hips and hold a hip bridge. Lift the right foot off the floor to 90 degrees at the hip and knee. Return the foot onto the floor and then lift the left foot to 90 degrees; return to center. Keep the hips lifted and maintain a neutral pelvis as you alternate leg lifts for 20 repetitions.
Regression: Hold a static hip bridge, keeping both feet on the floor for 30 or more seconds.

Stability Ball Deadbugs

Focus: Core stability
How to Perform: Lie on your back and lift your knees to 90 degrees. Place a stability ball between your lower legs (near the knees) and press your hands and legs into the stability ball. Engage the core and draw the navel toward the spine. Extend the arms and legs—the straighter the limbs, the more challenging the pose. Make sure the knees stay at 90-degrees when returning back to center (the calves touching the hamstrings makes the exercise easier). Complete 10 reps on each side.
Regression: Perform the exercise without a stability ball, and keep your knees at 90 degrees as you lower. It’s similar to toe taps, but with the addition of the arms.

Forearm Plank With Toe Taps

Focus: Core stability and hip strength
How to Perform: Position the body into a forearm plank with the feet touching. Begin alternating lateral toe taps, where the right foot pushes away from the body, touches the floor and then returns to center. Repeat with the left leg. Complete a set of 10 reps on each leg. Use a BOSU to make the exercise more challenging.
Regression: Perform a static forearm plank with feet hip-distance apart.

Side Plank With Torso Rotation

Focus: Core strength and shoulder stability
How to Perform: Position the body into a forearm side plank. Both legs should be extended. Lift the top arm over the chest and then rotate with your rib cage to draw the hand underneath the ribs. Repeat this motion for 10 to 12 repetitions and then perform on the other side.
Regression: Perform the exercise in modified side plank with your bottom shin on the floor.

Single-Legged Deadlift

Focus: Posterior strength
How to Perform: Hold a set a dumbbells and stand tall with feet hip-distance apart. Lift the right foot off the floor; hinge the pelvis to glide over the top of the left leg. The head and the foot should counterbalance each other. The lowest hinging point should be when the body is parallel to the floor. Keep the pelvis as neutral as possible. Complete 12 repetitions on each leg.
Regression: Perform the exercise without dumbbells or complete a deadlift with both feet on the floor.

Saturday, September 12, 2020

Walking Has Many Benefits


1. Burn calories 

Walking can help you burn calories. Burning calories can help you maintain or lose weight.   Your actual calorie burn will depend on several factors, including:

walking speed

distance covered

terrain (you’ll burn more calories walking uphill than you’ll burn on a flat surface)

your weight

You can determine your actual calorie burn through a calorie calculator. For a general estimate, you can also refer to this chart. 

2. Strengthen the heart 

Walking at least 30 minutes a day, five days a week can reduce your risk for coronary heart disease by about 19 percent. And your risk may reduce even more when you increase the duration or distance you walk per day.

3. Can help lower your blood sugar 

Taking a short walk after eating may help lower your blood sugar.

A small study found that taking a 15-minute walk three times a day (after breakfast, lunch, and dinner) improved blood sugar levels more than taking a 45-minute walk at another point during the day.  More research is needed to confirm these findings, though. Consider making a post-meal walk a regular part of your routine. It can also help you fit exercise in throughout the day.

4. Eases joint pain

Walking can help protect the joints, including your knees and hips. That’s because it helps lubricate and strengthen the muscles that support the joints.

Walking may also provide benefits for people living with arthritis, such as reducing pain. And walking 5 to 6 miles a week may also help prevent arthritis.

5. Boosts immune function 

Walking may reduce your risk for developing a cold or the flu.

One study tracked 1,000 adults during flu season. Those who walked at a moderate pace for 30 to 45 minutes a day had 43 percent fewer sick days and fewer upper respiratory tract infections overall. Their symptoms were also lessened if they did get sick. That was compared to adults in the study who were sedentary.

Try to get in a daily walk to experience these benefits. If you live in a cold climate, you can try to walk on a treadmill or around an indoor mall.

6. Boos your energy

Going for a walk when you’re tired may be more effective energy boost than grabbing a cup of coffee.  Walking increases oxygen flow through the body. It can also increase levels of cortisol, epinephrine, and norepinephrine.  Those are the hormones that help elevate energy levels, 

7. Improve your mood

Walking can help your mental health.  Studies show it can help reduce anxiety, depression, and a negative mood.  It can also boost self-esteem and reduce symptoms of social withdrawal.  To experience these benefits, aim for 30 minutes of brisk walking or other moderate intensity exercise three days a week.  You can also break it up into three 10 minute walks.  

8. Extend your life

Walking at a faster pace could extend your life. Researchers found that walking at an average pace compared to a slow pace resulted in a 20 percent reduced risk of overall death. But walking at a brisk or fast pace (at least 4 miles per hour) reduced the risk by 24 percent. The study looked at the association of walking at a faster pace with factors like overall causes of death, cardiovascular disease, and death from cancer.

9. Tone your legs 

Walking can strengthen the muscles in your legs. To build up more strength, walk in a hilly area or on a treadmill with an incline. Or find routes with stairs.

Also trade off walking with other cross-training activities like cycling or jogging. You can also perform resistance exercises like squats, lunges, and leg curls to further tone and strengthen your leg muscles.

10. Creative thinking 

Walking may help clear your head and help you think creatively.

A study that included four experiments compared people trying to think of new ideas while they were walking or sitting. Researchers found participants did better while walking, particularly while walking outdoors.

The researchers concluded that walking opens up a free flow of ideas and is a simple way to increase creativity and get physical activity at the same time.

Try to initiate a walking meeting with your colleagues the next time you’re stuck on a problem at work.

Tips for staying safe while walking 

To ensure your safety while walking, follow these tips:

Walk in areas designated for pedestrians. Look for well-lit areas if possible.

If you walk in the evening or early morning hours, wear a reflective vest or light so cars can see you.

Wear sturdy shoes with good heel and arch support.

Wear loose, comfortable clothing.

Drink plenty of water before and after your walk to stay hydrated.

Wear sunscreen to prevent sunburn, even on cloudy days.

How to get started

To get started walking, all you’ll need is a pair of sturdy walking shoes. Choose a walking route near your home. Or look for a scenic place to walk in your area, such as a trail or on the beach. You can also recruit a friend or family member to walk with you and hold you accountable. Alternatively, you can add walking into your daily routine. Here are some ideas:

If you commute, get off your bus or train one stop early and walk the rest of the way to work.

Park farther away from your office than usual and walk to and from your car.

Consider walking instead of driving when you run errands. You can complete your tasks and fit in                     exercise at the same time.

The takeaway

Walking can fulfill daily recommended exercise for people of all ages and fitness levels. Consider getting a pedometer or other fitness tracker to keep track of your daily steps.  Choose a walking route and daily step goal that’s appropriate for your age and fitness level. Warm and cool down before walking to avoid injury. Always speak to your doctor before starting a new fitness routine.

Wednesday, September 2, 2020

Heart Rate Recovery Is A Sign of Fitness


Most people are familiar with heart rate (sometimes called your pulse) — the measure of how fast your heart is beating. 

For a typical adult a normal heart rate is between 60 and 100 beats per minute.  Throughout the day, your heart rate is changing for all sorts of reasons.

- During exercise

- A stressful presentation 

- While taking a nap

- After taking certain medications

- After drinking a cup of coffee

What many people might not be familiar with is just how much information about health and fitness your heart rate can tell you. One incredibly useful and easy way to measure your general fitness and heart health is your Heart Rate Recovery (HHR.)

HHR is a measure of how quickly your heart rate goes down after intense exercise, usually measured at one-, two-, or three- minutes. To get a good measure of heart rate recovery, people go through something called a peak exercise test, often on a treadmill or stationary bike, where they exercise as hard and as fast as they can until they’re too tired to push any further. The heart rate is then logged at the end of the test, and after one-, two-, and three-minutes of rest.

Interested in your heart rate recovery but don’t feel like measuring it the old fashioned way by feeling your pulse at your wrist or your neck after busting your butt? Me neither….Fortunately, a lot of smartwatches and fitness trackers like the Apple Watch, Whoop, Fitbit and Garmin to name a few will automatically measure your heart rate recovery for you. If you use a heart rate monitor, popular apps like Strava can also provide measures of your heart rate recovery.

It is important to note that performing a peak exercise test to measure your heart rate recovery is not safe for everyone! If you are concerned about getting started with an exercise program, aren’t showing a heart rate recovery you are happy with, or just want some help getting healthier and stronger - Let us know! 

But how do we know what a good heart rate recovery is? Fortunately, there is a lot of solid science to give us an idea. 

A research article from the New England Journal of Medicine found that a HHR of 15-20 beats per minute after one minute of rest was considered about average for heart health and anything faster than that was considered to be good heart health.

A 2017 article in the Journal of the American Heart Association pooled together a ton of studies on heart rate recovery (this is called a meta-analysis) and found a strong enough relationship between heart rate recovery and cardiovascular health to recommend it as something that should be looked at when gauging risk of things like heart disease.

Heart rate recovery can also be a pretty good measure of fitness and performance!

 A 2017 study of elite athletes found: 

The average one-minute heart rate recovery to be: 23 beats per minute

Two-minute heart rate recovery to be: 58 beats per minute

Three-minute heart rate recovery to be: 82 beats per minute.

For those of us not considered elite athletes, like us… a 2014 study that looked at physically active men and found:

The average one-minute heart rate recovery to be: 15 beats per minute

Three-minute heart rate recovery to be: 64 beats per minute.

In general, it’s a good idea to think the faster the heart rate recovery, the better the fitness.

And just like heart rate can be affected by many things, hour to hour, day to day — so too can heart rate recovery. One measurement can be helpful, but it’s multiple measurements over time that give the best info.

How Can I Improve My Heart Rate Recovery?


In the long term, the same things you might do to improve your overall fitness level will also benefit your heart rate recovery, like regular exercise, proper nutrition and maintaining your body’s natural circadian rhythm. 

On a daily basis, optimizing the quality and quantity of your sleep, sufficiently hydrating, practicing meditation or breath work to relieve stress, and avoiding alcohol can all give a boost to your HRR.