Exercise ‘is good dementia therapy’

elderly exercise
More research is needed to figure out the best types of exercise to recommend to patients

People with dementia who exercise improve their thinking abilities and everyday life, a body of medical research concludes.

The Cochrane Collaboration carried out a systematic review of eight exercise trials involving more than 300 patients living at home or in care.

Exercise did little for patients’ moods, the research concluded.

But it did help them carry out daily activities such as rising from a chair, and boosted their cognitive skills.

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Though we can’t say that exercise will prevent dementia, evidence does suggest it can help reduce the risk of the condition as part of a healthy lifestyle

Dr Laura Phipps of Alzheimer’s Research UK

Whether these benefits improve quality of life is still unclear, but the study authors say the findings are reason for optimism.

Dementia affects some 800,000 people in the UK. And the number of people with the condition is steadily increasing because people are living longer.

It is estimated that by 2021, the number of people with dementia in the UK will have increased to around one million.

With no cure, ways to improve the lives of those living with the condition are vital.

Researcher Dorothy Forbes, of the University of Alberta, and colleagues who carried out the Cochrane review, said: “Clearly, further research is needed to be able to develop best practice guidelines to enable healthcare providers to advise people with dementia living at home or in institutions.

“We also need to understand what level and intensity of exercise is beneficial for someone with dementia.”

Dr Laura Phipps of Alzheimer’s Research UK said: “We do know that exercise is an important part of keeping healthy, and though we can’t say that exercise will prevent dementia, evidence does suggest it can help reduce the risk of the condition as part of a healthy lifestyle.”

Exercise while pregnant may boost baby’s brain.

This week, Baby V and I have joined more than 30,000 neuroscientists in San Diego for the annual Society for Neuroscience meeting. We’ve wandered the miles of posters, dropped in on talks and generally soaked up the brain waves floating around this massive meeting of minds.

We’ve worked up a sweat more than once rushing around the meeting, so it’s nice to be reminded of all the exciting research on the benefits of physical exercise on the brain. Evidence is piling up that a fit body is one of the absolute best things you can do for a fit mind. And a study presented November 10 shows that if you’re pregnant, the benefits of exercise extend to your baby’s brain too.

Researchers from the University of Montreal asked pregnant women to exercise three times a week for 20 minutes until they were slightly short of breath. Other pregnant women didn’t exercise.  Eight to 12 days after the babies were born, the team recorded the electrical activity in sleeping babies’ brains.

Babies born to moms who exercised showed more localized brain activity patterns in response to sounds, the researchers found. This targeted brain activity is a sign of brain maturity, indicating that the brain is becoming more efficient. Babies whose mothers didn’t exercise during pregnancy showed more diffuse brain responses to sounds. The scientists plan on looking for lasting benefits by testing the babies at age 1.

Studies in rodents have found benefits of exercise during pregnancy: Rats born to moms who worked out have brains that are more resistant to low oxygen conditions, for instance. Maternal exercise boosts levels of cellular powerhouses called mitochondria in rat pups’ brains.  And exercise during pregnancy resulted in more newborn neurons in the mouse hippocampus, a brain region involved in learning and memory. Now, this new study suggests that some of these benefits might extend to people, too.

So, exercise is good for mom and good for baby. Now Baby V and I just need to find a study that reports exercise — specifically, walking miles and miles at a neuroscience conference — helps a baby to sleep through the night.

Common Fitness Habits that Can Prevent You from Reaping Maximum Results.

Story at-a-glance

  • Five common fitness habits that can hamper your progress include avoiding exercise due to sore muscles; ignoring severe pain; staying within your comfort zone; exercising without a plan; and avoiding strength training
  • While you can get away with skipping the warm-up when you’re doing a low- to moderate impact workout, not warming up can easily lead to injury when you’re doing high-intensity sprinting
  • Research suggests stretching is best avoided prior to strength training. But in other instances, such as when you’re doing high intensity sprinting exercises, prior stretching is imperative, and should NOT be skipped
  • Compelling and ever-mounting research shows that the ideal form of exercise is short bursts of high intensity exercise. This can dramatically cut down the time you spend exercising while reaping greater results
  • For optimal health, you’d also be wise to incorporate aerobic, strength training, core exercises and stretching, for a well-rounded fitness program.
  • Fitness Habit

When it comes to creating a sustainable, healthy lifestyle, your habits can literally make or break you. Setting good habits from the start can save you a lot of frustration and wasted time down the road.

Two featured articles address some of the detrimental exercise habits many get trapped in, and a third article offers up helpful tips to improve your workout.  I’ll summarize some of these here, and focus on what I believe are the most important parts of a healthy fitness routine.

Busting Bad Fitness Habits

Prevention Magazine1 and fitness trainer Jillian Michaels2 recently wrote about common fitness habits that you would be wise to reconsider, if you want to improve your results.

This includes:

    1. Avoiding exercise due to sore muscles—More than likely, you’ve at some point experienced the muscle soreness that sometimes follows a new or vigorous workout, called DOMS (delayed onset muscle soreness).

      Tempting as it may be to coddle and rest your sore muscles, recent research3 has found that exercise using light resistance actually provides acute relief similar to that of massage.

    2. Ignoring severe pain — On the other hand, ignoring messages transmitted through sharp pains is not to be recommended either.

      Pushing through pain can result in hard-to-heal injuries, so always listen to your body. Pain can signify that you’re doing an exercise incorrectly, so make sure to pay attention to your form.

    3. Staying within your comfort zone— This is a critical flaw of any fitness regimen. Without variety and challenge, your body will quickly adapt and plateau.

As a general rule, as soon as an exercise becomes easy to complete, you need to increase the intensity and/or try another exercise to keep challenging your body.

    1. “Machine hopping” without a plan — According to exercise physiologist Tom Holland, quoted in the featured article, this has pro’s and con’s.

      On the one hand, jumping from one machine to another automatically prevents your body from adapting to any particular routine. On the other, he warns, “ you need to develop a sound strength base before you can build on it. Jumping around doesn’t allow for that.”

      He suggests making sure you maintain a certain amount of consistency to start, and sticking with a particular routine for four to six weeks to develop a solid base. Once your fitness and strength increases, you can give yourself more leeway.

    2. Avoiding strength training— Many people, women especially, avoid weight training because they don’t want to “bulk up” a’ la Schwarzenegger. This is another critical mistake, as strength training has significant health benefits that have nothing to do with building “bulky” muscles.

For example, weight-bearing exercise, like resistance or strength training, can go a long way to prevent brittle bone formation, and can help reverse the damage already done. It also has brain-boosting side effects, which can help you avoid age-related dementia.

Two More Common Mistakes: Skipping Warm-Up and Stretching

While you can get away with skipping the warm-up when you’re doing a low- to moderate impact workout, not warming up can easily lead to injury when you’re doing high-intensity interval training (HIIT) exercises, especially sprinting. The same applies for stretching, which I’ll discuss in just a moment.

As previously noted by John Paul Catanzaro, a Certified Kinesiologist and exercise physiologist, it takes only 10-15 seconds of muscular contractions to raise your body temperature by 1ºC, and a proper warm-up should raise your body temperature by 1-2ºC (1.4-2.8ºF). This is enough to cause sweating, and is really all that’s required in terms of warm-up.

“Simply going through the motions of any exercise is sufficient to supply blood to the appropriate working muscles. Just a few repetitions is all you need to really warm-up the muscles; aerobic activity is not necessary, and will zap valuable energy and time,” he says.

So, instead of aerobics, Catanzaro recommends performing the following dynamic stretching routine before your workout. Start slow and shallow and gradually increase speed and range with each repetition; 5-10 reps per movement is all you really need.

Squat Arms horizontal
Split Squat PNF pattern
Toe Touches Arm circles
Waiter’s Bow Wrist flexion/extension
Side Bends Wrist circles
Trunk twists Shoulder shrugs
Arms vertical Head tilt
Arms vertical alternating Head rotation

To Stretch or Not to Stretch?

There’s plenty of confusion to go around when it comes to stretching as well. As a general rule, it’s not critical to stretch before a workout, and in some cases it may even be contraindicated. For example, a recent study published in The Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research4 found that passive static stretching prior to lifting weights can actually make you feel weaker and less stable during your workout. The researchers concluded that such stretching should be avoided prior to strength training, noting that the passive stretches may have impaired strength because of joint instability.

In other instances, such as when you’re doing high intensity sprinting exercises, prior stretching is imperative, and should NOT be skipped.  When I first began sprinting, I ended up injuring myself by ignoring the recommendation to stretch properly beforehand. The stretching exercises I demonstrate in the following video finally helped me recover, but I suggest you avoid making the same mistake and just do the stretches before you start sprinting.

Fitness trainer Jillian Michaels also notes that stretching is ideally done after your workout, when your muscles are nice and warm. My own trainer, Darin Steen, also agrees that while light stretching is okay prior to any workout, it’s better to leave more intense stretching to the end.  In her article, Jillian Michaels5 offers a simple dynamic “butt-kick” stretch that can be done while walking or jogging:

“As you walk or jog, exaggerate the knee bend so that you are trying to kick yourself in the butt. You want your knee to point straight to the ground as your heel comes toward your butt. Keep your arms pumping in the normal running motion… The higher you get your heel and the more you keep your knee toward the ground (instead of coming up in front of you with hip flexion), the more of a quad stretch you’ll get.”

Remember: Intensity is a Key Ingredient for Fitness Success

Another common mistake is to focus your workout on longer, slower aerobic exercise. Many get into the routine of just plodding away on a treadmill for 30-60 minutes, and then calling it a day. High intensity interval training (HIIT), which is a core component of my Peak Fitness program, is key for reaping optimal results from exercise. There are many versions of HIIT, but the core premise involves maximum exertion followed by a quick rest period for a set of intervals.

My Peak Fitness routine uses a set of eight 30-second sprints, each followed by 90 seconds of recovery done after a proper warm up as discussed above and followed by a cool down period.. Phil Campbell, who is a pioneer in this field, trained me in this technique. Also, while I typically recommend using an elliptical machine or recumbent bike, it can be performed with virtually any type of exercise; with or without equipment.

Ideally, you’ll want to perform these exercises two or three times a week for a total of four minutes of intense exertion, especially if you are not doing strength training.You do not need to do them more often than that however. In fact, doing it more frequently than two or three times a week can be counterproductive, as your body needs to recover between sessions. If you want to do more, focus on making sure you’re really pushing yourself as hard as you can during those two or three weekly sessions, rather than increasing the frequency.

Remember, intensity is indeed KEY for reaping all the benefits interval training can offer. To perform it correctly, you’ll want to raise your heart rate to your anaerobic threshold, and to do that, you have to give it your all for those 20 to 30 seconds.  To calculate your maximum heart rate, subtract your age from 220. That number is your maximum heart rate in beats per minute. Here’s a quick summary of what a typical interval routine might look like using an elliptical:

  • Warm up for three minutes
  • Exercise as hard and fast as you can for 30 seconds. You should be gasping for breath and feel like you couldn’t possibly go on another few seconds. It is better to use lower resistance and higher repetitions to increase your heart rate
  • Recover for 90 seconds, still moving, but at slower pace and decreased resistance
  • Repeat the high intensity exercise and recovery 7 more times

Easy Ways to Improve Your Workouts

The third featured article, published by Newspress.com,6 offers several helpful tips for getting the most out of each workout. Listed suggestions include:

  • Use a stop watch. This is particularly useful for when you’re doing Peak exercises discussed above. Resting too long between sets will lessen the overall intensity of your workout.
  • Take notes to track your progress. As mentioned earlier, you need to continually increase the work you do in order to keep improving. So note the weights, reps, and intensity of each exercise, and kick it up a notch as soon as each exercise becomes easy to perform.
  • Choose the right music for your workout. Research has shown that music can significantly boost your exertion level during a workout. While your body may be simply responding to the beat on a more or less subconscious level, the type and tempo of the music you choose may also influence your conscious motivation. Together, the synchronization of moving to the beat along with being motivated by the music itself allows it to do its magic.
  • Allow your body to recover. While most people suffer from lack of exercise, once you get going, it can be addictive and some people do end up exercising too much — either by exercising too intensely, and/or too frequently. A really important part of creating optimal fitness is recovery. An equation to keep in mind is that as intensity increases, frequency can be diminished.
  • Tailor your diet to your exercise regimen. The featured article suggests eating slow-digesting carbs (the author suggests whole grains) prior to your workout. While research has indeed shown that eating easily digestible carbohydrates before exercise may enable you to work out longer, there’s also plenty of research that strongly supports skipping eating before exercise… especially if you’re interested in maximizing your fat-burning potential.

    When you exercise while fasting, it essentially forces your body to shed fat, as your body’s fat burning processes are controlled by your sympathetic nervous system (SNS), and your SNS is activated by exercise and lack of food.  The combination of fasting and exercising maximizes the impact of cellular factors and catalysts (cyclic AMP and AMP Kinases), which force the breakdown of fat and glycogen for energy. One study7 found that fasting before aerobic training leads to reductions in both body weight and body fat, while eating before a workout decreases only body weight.

    Also remember that on days when you’re doing HIIT, you’ll want to strictly avoid all sugars, especially fructose, at least two hours before and after your workout.

    Restricting these carbs after exercise will prevent the production of the hormone somatostatin, the role of which is to inhibit the production of human growth hormone (HGH). If you consume fructose before or after high intensity exercise, you effectively negate one of its most potent benefits—the production of HGH, also known as “the fitness hormone.”

Aim for a Well-Rounded Fitness Program

Ideally, to truly optimize your health, you’ll want to strive for a varied and well-rounded fitness program that incorporates a wide variety of exercises. Remember, without variety, your body will quickly adapt. As a general rule, as soon as an exercise becomes easy to complete, you need to increase the intensity and/or try another exercise to keep challenging your body. I recommend incorporating the following types of exercise into your program:

  1. Interval (Anaerobic) Training: This is when you alternate short bursts of high-intensity exercise with gentle recovery periods.
  2. Strength Training: Rounding out your exercise program with a 1-set strength training routine will ensure that you’re really optimizing the possible health benefits of a regular exercise program. You can also “up” the intensity by slowing it down.


    1. Core Exercises: Your body has 29 core muscles located mostly in your back, abdomen and pelvis. This group of muscles provides the foundation for movement throughout your entire body, and strengthening them can help protect and support your back, make your spine and body less prone to injury and help you gain greater balance and stability.

Foundation Training, created by Dr. Eric Goodman, is an integral first step of a larger program he calls “Modern Moveology,” which consists of a catalog of exercises. Postural exercises such as those taught in Foundation Training are critical not just for properly supporting your frame during daily activities, they also retrain your body so you can safely perform high-intensity exercises without risking injury.   Exercise programs like Pilates and yoga are also great for strengthening your core muscles, as are specific exercises you can learn from a personal trainer.

  1. Stretching: My favorite type of stretching is active isolated stretches developed by Aaron Mattes. With Active Isolated Stretching, you hold each stretch for only two seconds, which works with your body’s natural physiological makeup to improve circulation and increase the elasticity of muscle joints. This technique also allows your body to repair itself and prepare for daily activity. You can also use devices like the Power Plate to help you stretch.
  2. Avoid Sitting for More than 10 Minutes. Last but not least, emerging evidence clearly shows that even highly fit people who exceed the expert exercise recommendations are headed for premature death if they sit for long periods of time.  My interview with NASA scientist Dr. Joan Vernikos goes into great detail why this is so, and what you can do about it. Personally, I usually set a timer to go off every 10 minutes while sitting, and then stand up and do one legged squats, jump squats or lunges when the timer goes off. The key is that you need to be moving all day long, even in non-exercise activities.

What is Heavy Metal Toxicity and What Can you Do About It?

Heavy metal toxicity is something i think we don’t talk enough about in the holistic industry. However, heavy metals are everywhere, surrounding us in our daily lives and activities.

First of all, i would like to give you a definition of what toxicity means:

-Toxins are proteins formed by bacteria, animals or plants. We talk about toxicity when we evaluate the property of a toxin of being poisonous. Toxicity spreads around the body, taking differents paths through the blood and tissues. When not flushed properly through natural excretion pathways like stolls, urine and sweat, build up and accumulation of toxins appears and usually get stored in our fatty tissues. This is what we call Toxaemia. Toxaemia results in the overall body malfunctions. The immune system is compromised, Ph of blood and tissues acidifies, depression symptoms appears, skin rashes, thyroid problems, chronic migraines, mental and neurological disorders like Alzheimer, Parkinson’s, MS, ADD, metallic taste in mouth and chronic inflammation, low libido, PMS, prostate problems, impotence, chronic fatigue, fibromyalgia, autoimmune disease and many more might be the result of toxaemia.

Your body is clever and know how to flush those toxins, but sometimes overload might occurs and this is when trouble comes. Overlaod is most of the time the result of poor lifestyle choices and nutrition. Daily heavy metal poisoning can be due to many factors like cigarettes smoking, high alcohol intake, acidic diet made of too much meat, refined product, inflammatory foods and not enough alkaline forming foods, drinking tap water, conventional dental fillings, lack of physical exercise and recreational drug intake, non-organic foods.

Now there are different types of Heavy metals:

-Arsenic affects neurological functions and can lead to chronic migraines, apathy, confusion. Ways to find out if you are toxic in arsenic is to see if your breath smells like garlic even though you didn’t eat any garlic lately. White spots on the nails can also be a high toxicity in arsenic (as well as deficiency in zinc and iron).

-Lead affects hormonal functions and memory. High toxicity can lead to insomnia, tingling of the limb, depression, unusual taste in mouth, light blue pigmentation on the skin might appear in severe cases. Lead is found in water pipes, canned fruits, car batteries.

Cadmium affects the kidneys, respiratory and squeletal system. High toxicity can lead to bone fragility, gout, loss of smell, hair loss, zinc deficiency, raise in blood pressure. Cadmium is heavily absorb by the lungs. It used in fertilisers, industrial beers production, cigarettes, sodas. So if someone for example drinks too many beers and sodas and smokes too much, a accumulation of cadmuim might occurs and lower zinc levels which could be a result of prostate problems as prostate needs a lot of zinc to maintain proper functions.

-Mercury affect many things like coordination, gums problems, excessive salivation, neuropathy, depression, irritability, fibromyalgia, fear, apathy, abnormal heartbeat. Mercury is all over the place, from longer fish, to vaccines, passing by tap water and conventional dental fillings, it is hard to avoid mercury.

-Aluminium is a neurotoxin which lead to hypersensitivity, migraines, lower kidney functions, sleep disorders and neuro-muscular disease. It is found everywhere too and especially in vaccines.

-Copper affects mainly the emotions. Mood swing, depression, agitation, ADD, anxiety, chronic stress, insomnia, fibromyalgia, raise of blood pressure and hair loss can all be results of high copper toxicity. Copper can also accumulate in the thyroid leading to hyperthyroism. The pill increase the accumulation and retention of copper in the kidneys. It is mainly found in hot water tabs as the hot water pipes are made of copper.

There are many ways to remove and facilitate the excretion of those nasty little things.

My favorite is fresh crushed garlic, everyday with a green salad, with turmeric and cayenne pepper or just the way you like it the most. (avoid on a first date 😉 ) Then Coriander is excellent is the removal of heavy metal, take it as a tea, infuse for 5 to 10 minutes with fresh orange peal, 3 times daily for 2 months minimum. Then there is Chlorophyl, fresh juice of it, around 50ml everyday, in the morning before breakfast is absolutely amazing in the general detox of the body and removal of heavy metals. Then, there is the Glutathione-skin brushing-epsom salt-exercise combo which works very well too.

In all cases, keep a balance lifestyle, exercise, eat fresh and organic as much as possible, have fun, be happy, dream a lot, explore your limits, do regular mini detox, socialise and don’t be a purist, just be realistic and live your life the way you think is best for you and gives you the motivation to get up every morning and looking forward to a new day.

Source: theholisticdirectory.co.uk

Even a Little Physical Activity May Prevent Depression.

Even low levels of physical activity may reduce the risk of developing depression in individuals of all ages, new research suggests.

In 25 of 30 large studies examined in the systematic review, which included participants between the ages of 11 and 100 years, a “negative risk” was found between baseline physical activity (PA) and the future development of depression.

In addition, this inverse association was found in all levels of PA ― including less than 2.5 hours of walking per week.

“It was a little surprising that 25 of the studies found this protective effect, and that’s really promising,” lead author George Mammen, PhD candidate from the Faculty of Kinesiology and Physical Education Department at the University of Toronto in Ontario, Canada, told Medscape Medical News.

“We also did quality assessments on each study, and the majority were of high methodologic quality, which adds weight to the findings,” said Mammen.

He noted that the take-home message is that being active is important for more than just physical health.

“From a population health perspective, promoting PA may serve as a valuable mental health…strategy in reducing the risk of developing depression,” write the investigators.

The study was published in the November issue of the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.

Prevention Strategy Needed

Previous studies have shown a link between exercise and decreasing symptoms in patients with depression,including several reported by Medscape Medical News.

“However, with the high prevalence of depression worldwide and its burden on well-being and the healthcare system, intuitively, it would make more sense…to shift focus toward preventing the onset of depression,” the investigators write.

We need a prevention strategy now more than ever. Our health system is taxed. We need to…look for ways to fend off depression from the start,” added Mammen in a release.

After searching 6 of the top databases, including MEDLINE and PubMed, the researchers found 6263 worldwide citations of PA and depression. For this analysis, they selected 30 English-language studies that were published between January 1976 and December 2012.

All were prospective, longitudinal, and “examined relationships between PA and depression over at least two time intervals.” They had follow-up periods ranging from 1 to 27 years.

Results showed that 25 of the studies revealed a significant inverse effect between any PA reported at baseline and subsequent depression development.

Interestingly, 4 of these studies showed that women who reported baseline PA were less likely than men to develop depression.

“These studies postulate that psychological factors may explain these findings because women may benefit more from the social aspects of PA than men,” note the investigators.

Of the 5 studies that did not find a significant association between PA and depression, “only 1 was considered to be of high quality,” and 2 focused only on older adults.

Get Moving

Using data from the 7 studies that measured amounts of weekly PA participation, the researchers found that exercising more than 150 minutes per week was associated with a 19% to 27% decreased risk of developing depression.

Surprisingly, participating in less than 150 minutes per week of PA was associated with a 8% to 63% decreased depression risk compared with individuals who were sedentary. Still, the 63% decreased risk was found in one study of patients participating in 120 minutes of weekly PA.

10 Simple Things You Can Do Today That Will Make You Happier.

Happiness is so interesting, because we all have different ideas about what it is and how to get it. So naturally we are obsessed with it.

I would love to be happier, as I’m sure most people would, so I thought it would be interesting to find some ways to become a happier person that are actually backed up by science. Here are ten of the best ones I found.

1. Exercise more – 7 minutes might be enough

You might have seen some talk recently about the scientific 7 minute workout mentioned in The New York Times. So if you thought exercise was something you didn’t have time for, maybe you can fit it in after all.

Exercise has such a profound effect on our happiness and well-being that it’s actually been proven to be an effective strategy for overcoming depression. In a study cited in Shawn Achor’s book, The Happiness Advantage, three groups of patients treated their depression with either medication, exercise, or a combination of the two. The results of this study really surprised me. Although all three groups experienced similar improvements in their happiness levels to begin with, the follow up assessments proved to be radically different:

The groups were then tested six months later to assess their relapse rate. Of those who had taken the medication alone, 38 percent had slipped back into depression. Those in the combination group were doing only slightly better, with a 31 percent relapse rate. The biggest shock, though, came from the exercise group: Their relapse rate was only 9 percent!

You don’t have to be depressed to gain benefit from exercise, though. It can help you to relax, increase your brain power and even improve your body image, even if you don’t lose any weight.

study in the Journal of Health Psychology found that people who exercised felt better about their bodies, even when they saw no physical changes:

Body weight, shape and body image were assessed in 16 males and 18 females before and after both 6 × 40 mins exercise and 6 × 40 mins reading. Over both conditions, body weight and shape did not change. Various aspects of body image, however, improved after exercise compared to before.

We’ve explored exercise in depth before, and looked at what it does to our brains, such as releasing proteins and endorphins that make us feel happier, as you can see in the image below.


2. Sleep more – you’ll be less sensitive to negative emotions

We know that sleep helps our bodies to recover from the day and repair themselves, and that it helps us focus and be more productive. It turns out, it’s also important for our happiness.

In NutureShock, Po Bronson and Ashley Merryman explain how sleep affects our positivity:

Negative stimuli get processed by the amygdala; positive or neutral memories gets processed by the hippocampus. Sleep deprivation hits the hippocampus harder than the amygdala. The result is that sleep-deprived people fail to recall pleasant memories, yet recall gloomy memories just fine.

In one experiment by Walker, sleep-deprived college students tried to memorize a list of words. They could remember 81% of the words with a negative connotation, like “cancer.” But they could remember only 31% of the words with a positive or neutral connotation, like “sunshine” or “basket.”

The BPS Research Digest explores another study that proves sleep affects our sensitivity to negative emotions. Using a facial recognition task over the course of a day, the researchers studied how sensitive participants were to positive and negative emotions. Those who worked through the afternoon without taking a nap became more sensitive late in the day to negative emotions like fear and anger.

Using a face recognition task, here we demonstrate an amplified reactivity to anger and fear emotions across the day, without sleep. However, an intervening nap blocked and even reversed this negative emotional reactivity to anger and fear while conversely enhancing ratings of positive (happy) expressions.

Of course, how well (and how long) you sleep will probably affect how you feel when you wake up, which can make a difference to your whole day. Especially this graph showing how your brain activity decreases is a great insight about how important enough sleep is for productivity and happiness:


Another study tested how employees’ moods when they started work in the morning affected their work day.

Researchers found that employees’ moods when they clocked in tended to affect how they felt the rest of the day. Early mood was linked to their perceptions of customers and to how they reacted to customers’ moods.

And most importantly to managers, employee mood had a clear impact on performance, including both how much work employees did and how well they did it.

Sleep is another topic we’ve looked into before, exploring how much sleep we really need to be productive.

3. Move closer to work – a short commute is worth more than a big house

Our commute to the office can have a surprisingly powerful impact on our happiness. The fact that we tend to do this twice a day, five days a week, makes it unsurprising that its effect would build up over time and make us less and less happy.

According to The Art of Manliness, having a long commute is something we often fail to realize will affect us so dramatically:

… while many voluntary conditions don’t affect our happiness in the long term because we acclimate to them, people never get accustomed to their daily slog to work because sometimes the traffic is awful and sometimes it’s not. Or as Harvard psychologist Daniel Gilbert put it, “Driving in traffic is a different kind of hell every day.”

We tend to try to compensate for this by having a bigger house or a better job, but these compensations just don’t work:

Two Swiss economists who studied the effect of commuting on happiness found that such factors could not make up for the misery created by a long commute.

4. Spend time with friends and family – don’t regret it on your deathbed

Staying in touch with friends and family is one of the top five regrets of the dying. If you want more evidence that it’s beneficial for you, I’ve found some research that proves it can make you happier right now.

Social time is highly valuable when it comes to improving our happiness, even for introverts. Several studies have found that time spent with friends and family makes a big difference to how happy we feel, generally.

I love the way Harvard happiness expert Daniel Gilbert explains it:

We are happy when we have family, we are happy when we have friends and almost all the other things we think make us happy are actually just ways of getting more family and friends.

George Vaillant is the director of a 72-year study of the lives of 268 men.

In an interview in the March 2008 newsletter to the Grant Study subjects, Vaillant was asked, “What have you learned from the Grant Study men?” Vaillant’s response: “That the only thing that really matters in life are your relationships to other people.”

He shared insights of the study with Joshua Wolf Shenk at The Atlantic on how the men’s social connections made a difference to their overall happiness:

The men’s relationships at age 47, he found, predicted late-life adjustment better than any other variable, except defenses. Good sibling relationships seem especially powerful: 93 percent of the men who were thriving at age 65 had been close to a brother or sister when younger.

In fact, a study published in the Journal of Socio-Economics states than your relationships are worth more than $100,000:

Using the British Household Panel Survey, I find that an increase in the level of social involvements is worth up to an extra £85,000 a year in terms of life satisfaction. Actual changes in income, on the other hand, buy very little happiness.

I think that last line is especially fascinating: Actual changes in income, on the other hand, buy very little happiness. So we could increase our annual income by hundreds of thousands of dollars and still not be as happy as if we increased the strength of our social relationships.

The Terman study, which is covered in The Longevity Project, found that relationships and how we help others were important factors in living long, happy lives:

We figured that if a Terman participant sincerely felt that he or she had friends and relatives to count on when having a hard time then that person would be healthier. Those who felt very loved and cared for, we predicted, would live the longest.

Surprise: our prediction was wrong… Beyond social network size, the clearest benefit of social relationships came from helping others. Those who helped their friends and neighbors, advising and caring for others, tended to live to old age.

5. Go outside – happiness is maximized at 13.9°C

In The Happiness Advantage, Shawn Achor recommends spending time in the fresh air to improve your happiness:

Making time to go outside on a nice day also delivers a huge advantage; one study found that spending 20 minutes outside in good weather not only boosted positive mood, but broadened thinking and improved working memory…

This is pretty good news for those of us who are worried about fitting new habits into our already-busy schedules. Twenty minutes is a short enough time to spend outside that you could fit it into your commute or even your lunch break.

A UK study from the University of Sussex also found that being outdoors made people happier:


Being outdoors, near the sea, on a warm, sunny weekend afternoon is the perfect spot for most. In fact, participants were found to be substantially happier outdoors in all natural environments than they were in urban environments.

The American Meteorological Society published research in 2011 that found current temperature has a bigger effect on our happiness than variables like wind speed and humidity, or even the average temperature over the course of a day. It also found that happiness is maximized at 13.9°C, so keep an eye on the weather forecast before heading outside for your 20 minutes of fresh air.

6. Help others – 100 hours a year is the magical number

One of the most counterintuitive pieces of advice I found is that to make yourself feel happier, you should help others. In fact, 100 hours per year (or two hours per week) is the optimal time we should dedicate to helping others in order to enrich our lives.

If we go back to Shawn Achor’s book again, he says this about helping others:

…when researchers interviewed more than 150 people about their recent purchases, they found that money spent on activities—such as concerts and group dinners out—brought far more pleasure than material purchases like shoes, televisions, or expensive watches. Spending money on other people, called “prosocial spending,” also boosts happiness.

The Journal of Happiness Studies published a study that explored this very topic:

Participants recalled a previous purchase made for either themselves or someone else and then reported their happiness. Afterward, participants chose whether to spend a monetary windfall on themselves or someone else. Participants assigned to recall a purchase made for someone else reported feeling significantly happier immediately after this recollection; most importantly, the happier participants felt, the more likely they were to choose to spend a windfall on someone else in the near future.

So spending money on other people makes us happier than buying stuff for ourselves. What about spending our time on other people? A study of volunteering in Germany explored how volunteers were affected when their opportunities to help others were taken away:

 Shortly after the fall of the Berlin Wall but before the German reunion, the first wave of data of the GSOEP was collected in East Germany. Volunteering was still widespread. Due to the shock of the reunion, a large portion of the infrastructure of volunteering (e.g. sports clubs associated with firms) collapsed and people randomly lost their opportunities for volunteering. Based on a comparison of the change in subjective well-being of these people and of people from the control group who had no change in their volunteer status, the hypothesis is supported that volunteering is rewarding in terms of higher life satisfaction.

In his book Flourish: A Visionary New Understanding of Happiness and Well-being, University of Pennsylvania professor Martin Seligman explains that helping others can improve our own lives:

…we scientists have found that doing a kindness produces the single most reliable momentary increase in well-being of any exercise we have tested.

7. Practice smiling – it can alleviate pain

Smiling itself can make us feel better, but it’s more effective when we back it up with positive thoughts, according to this study:

A new study led by a Michigan State University business scholar suggests customer-service workers who fake smile throughout the day worsen their mood and withdraw from work, affecting productivity. But workers who smile as a result of cultivating positive thoughts – such as a tropical vacation or a child’s recital – improve their mood and withdraw less.

Of course it’s important to practice “real smiles” where you use your eye sockets. It’s very easy to spot the difference:


According to PsyBlogsmiling can improve our attention and help us perform better on cognitive tasks:

Smiling makes us feel good which also increases our attentional flexibility and our ability to think holistically. When this idea was tested by Johnson et al. (2010), the results showed that participants who smiled performed better on attentional tasks which required seeing the whole forest rather than just the trees.

A smile is also a good way to alleviate some of the pain we feel in troubling circumstances:

Smiling is one way to reduce the distress caused by an upsetting situation. Psychologists call this the facial feedback hypothesis. Even forcing a smile when we don’t feel like it is enough to lift our mood slightly (this is one example of embodied cognition).

One of our previous posts goes into even more detail about the science of smiling.

8. Plan a trip – but don’t take one

As opposed to actually taking a holiday, it seems that planning a vacation or just a break from work can improve our happiness. A study published in the journal, Applied Research in Quality of Lifeshowed that the highest spike in happiness came during the planning stage of a vacation as employees enjoyed the sense of anticipation:

In the study, the effect of vacation anticipation boosted happiness for eight weeks.

After the vacation, happiness quickly dropped back to baseline levels for most people.

Shawn Achor has some info for us on this point, as well:

One study found that people who just thought about watching their favorite movie actually raised their endorphin levels by 27 percent.

If you can’t take the time for a vacation right now, or even a night out with friends, put something on the calendar—even if it’s a month or a year down the road. Then whenever you need a boost of happiness, remind yourself about it.

9. Meditate – rewire your brain for happiness

Meditation is often touted as an important habit for improving focus, clarity and attention span, as well as helping to keep you calm. It turns out it’s also useful for improving your happiness:

In one study, a research team from Massachusetts General Hospital looked at the brain scans of 16 people before and after they participated in an eight-week course in mindfulness meditation. The study, published in the January issue of Psychiatry Research: Neuroimaging, concluded that after completing the course, parts of the participants’ brains associated with compassion and self-awareness grew, and parts associated with stress shrank.

Meditation literally clears your mind and calms you down, it’s been often proven to be the single most effective way to live a happier live. I believe that this graphic explains it the best:


According to Shawn Achor, meditation can actually make you happier long-term:

Studies show that in the minutes right after meditating, we experience feelings of calm and contentment, as well as heightened awareness and empathy. And, research even shows that regular meditation can permanently rewire the brain to raise levels of happiness.

The fact that we can actually alter our brain structure through mediation is most surprising to me and somewhat reassuring that however we feel and think today isn’t permanent.

10. Practice gratitude – increase both happiness and life satisfaction

This is a seemingly simple strategy, but I’ve personally found it to make a huge difference to my outlook. There are lots of ways to practice gratitude, from keeping a journal of things you’re grateful for, sharing three good things that happen each day with a friend or your partner, and going out of your way to show gratitude when others help you.

In an experiment where some participants took note of things they were grateful for each day, their moods were improved just from this simple practice:

The gratitude-outlook groups exhibited heightened well-being across several, though not all, of the outcome measures across the 3 studies, relative to the comparison groups. The effect on positive affect appeared to be the most robust finding. Results suggest that a conscious focus on blessings may have emotional and interpersonal benefits.

The Journal of Happiness studies published a study that used letters of gratitude to test how being grateful can affect our levels of happiness:

Participants included 219 men and women who wrote three letters of gratitude over a 3 week period.

Results indicated that writing letters of gratitude increased participants’ happiness and life satisfaction, while decreasing depressive symptoms.

Quick last fact: Getting older will make yourself happier

As a final point, it’s interesting to note that as we get older, particularly past middle age, we tend togrow happier naturally. There’s still some debate over why this happens, but scientists have got a few ideas:

Researchers, including the authors, have found that older people shown pictures of faces or situations tend to focus on and remember the happier ones more and the negative ones less.

Other studies have discovered that as people age, they seek out situations that will lift their moods — for instance, pruning social circles of friends or acquaintances who might bring them down. Still other work finds that older adults learn to let go of loss and disappointment over unachieved goals, and hew their goals toward greater wellbeing.

So if you thought being old would make you miserable, rest assured that it’s likely you’ll develop a more positive outlook than you probably have now.


How Staying Mentally Fit Can Make a Difference

Your brain isn’t a muscle, but you can treat it like one

Many people focus on physical fitness, but few know that brain fitness is also something you can work on. In fact, you can exercise your brain as often as you would your arms or abs–and the results can be positive and empowering.

How Staying Mentally Fit Can Make a Difference

It’s helpful to think of your brain as you would a muscle. To improve your brain, you can’t simply repeat the same exercises over and over. Just as lifting a two pound weight will cease to challenge you, so will repetitive exercises such as crosswords or Sudoku. Once you master easy exercises, you must move on to harder ones in order to push your brain—like your muscles—to a new level.

This is based on your brain’s innate neuroplasticity, or its ability to grow and change in response to new challenges. In other words, the right types of stimulating exercises can physically change your brain.

The science behind brain training

Scientists once believed that your mental abilities were fixed in adulthood. Now that studies on neuroplasticity have shown just the opposite, millions of people around the world have adopted the new practice of brain training.

The most popular of these brain training products is made by the San Francisco-based Lumosity, which employs a team of in-house neuroscientists with degrees from Stanford and UC Berkeley.

Realizing that brains need more sophisticated programs and guidance to grow and change, Lumosity’s scientists work with an experienced team of game designers. Together they’ve developed a fun, effective online brain training program that measure, tracks, and adapts to your progress so you’ll always be challenged.

Lumosity’s training algorithm and 40+ games are based on well-studied tests used in clinical neuropsychology research.

Promising studies on the effects of brain training

In a 2013 Stanford study, a treatment group of 21 breast cancer survivors used 12 weeks of Lumosity training to work on processing speed, mental flexibility, and working memory tasks. On average, those who trained improved on tests of these abilities, compared to a group that did not train with Lumosity.

There is even some preliminary evidence suggesting that Lumosity may be beneficial to normal, healthy adults. In a 2011 study by Lumosity and San Francisco State University researchers, 13 people who did Lumosity training over 5 weeks improved on tests of brain performance compared to a group that did not train. On average, those who trained improved working memory scores by 10% and attention scores by 20%.

Brain training is designed to address real-life needs

The goal of brain training is not to improve game scores: it’s to improve the underlying core abilities that those games rely on. Neuroscientists like those at Lumosity design brain games meant to translate into real-life benefits; with continued testing and research, the body of evidence behind brain training continues to grow.

Better attention, for example, can mean greater focus in the classroom or at an important business meeting. With improved processing speed, you might react and adapt faster to the demands of a busy life. And a better memory could mean stronger, longer relationships with the people closest to you.

Brain training is an investment

Training can take just a few minutes a day, but the rewards can make a difference in many aspects of life.

Exercise Prevents Heart Disease as Effectively as Expensive Medications.

·         After reviewing 305 randomized controlled trials, researchers found no statistically detectable differences between physical activity and medications for prediabetes and heart disease, including statins and beta blockers

·         Exercise was also found to be more effective than drugs after you’ve had a stroke. The only time drugs beat exercise was for the recovery from heart failure, in which case diuretic medicines produced a better outcome

·         Exercise is in fact so potent, the researchers suggested that drug companies ought to be required to include it for comparison when conducting clinical trials for new drugs

·         High-intensity interval training, which requires but a fraction of the time compared to conventional cardio, has been shown to be FAR more effective. It’s also the only exercise that really gives you an efficient cardiovascular workout

Did you know that exercise is one of the safest, most effective ways to prevent and treat chronic diseases such as heart disease?

This common-sense advice was again confirmed in a meta-review conducted by researchers at Harvard University and Stanford University,1 which compared the effectiveness of exercise versus drug interventions on mortality outcomes for four common conditions:

·         Diabetes

·         Coronary heart disease

·         Heart failure

·         Stroke

After reviewing 305 randomized controlled trials, which included nearly 339,300 people, they found “no statistically detectable differences” between physical activity and medications for prediabetes and heart disease.

Exercise was also found to be more effective than drugs after you’ve had a stroke. The only time drugs beat exercise was for the recovery from heart failure, in which case diuretic medicines produced a better outcome.

The drugs assessed in the studies included:

·         Statins and beta blockers for coronary heart disease

·         Diuretics and beta blockers for heart failure

·         Anticoagulants and antiplatelets for stroke

Exercise Should Be Included as Comparison in Drug Development Studies

The featured review is a potent reminder of the power of simple lifestyle changes, as well as the shortcomings of the drug paradigm. If you’re interested in living a longer, healthier life, nothing will beat proper diet and exercise.

Exercise is in fact so potent, the researchers suggested that drug companies ought to be required to include it for comparison when conducting clinical trials for new drugs! As reported by Bloomberg:2

“The analysis adds to evidence showing the benefit of non-medical approaches to disease through behavior and lifestyle changes.

Given the cost of drug treatment, regulators should consider requiring pharmaceutical companies to include exercise as a comparator in clinical trials of new medicines, according to authors Huseyin Naci of Harvard and John Ioannidis of Stanford.

‘In cases where drug options provide only modest benefit, patients deserve to understand the relative impact that physical activity might have on their condition,’ Naci and Ioannidis said in the published paper. In the meantime, ‘exercise interventions should therefore be considered as a viable alternative to, or, alongside, drug therapy.’”

There are glimmers of hope that change is possible, slow and begrudging as it may be. Dean Ornish, founder of the Preventive Medicine Research Institute, spent 16 years proving that a vegetarian diet along with exercise and stress management is more effective than conventional care for the treatment of heart disease.

And, as of January 2011, Medicare actually began covering the Ornish Spectrum—Reversing Heart Disease program,3 under the benefit category of “intensive cardiac rehabilitation.”

How Exercise Benefits Your Heart and Health

Heart disease and cancer are two of the top killers of Americans, and exercise can effectively help prevent the onset of both, primarily by normalizing your insulin and leptin levels.

Other beneficial biochemical changes also occur during exercise, including alterations in more than 20 different metabolites. Some of these compounds help you burn calories and fat, while others help stabilize your blood sugar, among other things.

In a nutshell, being a healthy weight and exercising regularly creates a healthy feedback loop that optimizes and helps maintain healthy glucose, insulin and leptin levels through optimization of insulin and leptin receptor sensitivity.

And, as I’ve mentioned before, insulin and leptin resistance—primarily driven by excessive consumption of refined sugars and grains along with lack of exercise—are the underlying factors of nearly all chronic disease that can take years off your life.

Previous research has shown that exercise alone can reduce your risk of cardiovascular disease by a factor of three.4However, endurance-type exercise, such as marathon running, can actually damage your heart and increase your cardiovascular risk by a factor of seven…

Research5 by Dr. Arthur Siegel, director of Internal Medicine at Harvard’s McLean Hospital found that long-distance running leads to high levels of inflammation that can trigger cardiac events. Another 2006 study6 found that non-elite marathon runners experienced decreased right ventricular systolic function, again caused by an increase in inflammation and a decrease in blood flow.

All in all, such findings are a powerful lesson that excessive cardio may actually be counterproductive. In the featured review, the types of exercise, frequency, intensity and duration varied widely across the included studies, which made it impossible to ascertain the specifics of what was most or least effective for the prevention and treatment of disease.

However, it was clear that exercise in general is comparable to many of the drugs used for heart disease, heart failure, and stroke. That said, other research has clearly demonstrated that short bursts of intense activity is safer and more effective than conventional cardio—for your heart, general health, weight loss, and overall fitness.  One of the easiest ways to exercise is simply by performing body weight exercises.

Are You Exercising Effectively and Efficiently?

The answer is to exercise correctly and appropriately, and making certain you have adequate recovery, which can be as important as the exercise itself. There is in fact overwhelming evidence indicating that conventional cardio or long-distance running is one of the worst forms of exercise there is. Not only have other studies confirmed the disturbing findings above, but they’ve also concluded it’s one of the least efficient forms of exercise. Research emerging over the past several years has given us a deeper understanding of what your body requires in terms of exercise. 

High-intensity interval training, which requires but a fraction of the time compared to conventional cardio, has been shown to be FAR more efficient, and more effective. This type of physical activity mimics the movements of our hunter-gatherer ancestors, which included short bursts of high-intensity activities, but not long-distance running. This, researchers say, is what your body is hard-wired for. Basically, by exercising in short bursts, followed by periods of recovery, you recreate exactly what your body needs for optimum health. Twice-weekly sessions, which require no more than 20 minutes from start to finish, can help you:

·         Lower your body fat

·         Improve your muscle tone

·         Boost your energy and libido

·         Improve athletic speed and performance

This type of exercise will also naturally increase your body’s production of human growth hormone (HGH)—a synergistic, foundational biochemical underpinning that promotes muscle and effectively burns excessive fat. It also plays an important part in promoting overall health and longevity. Conventional cardio will NOT boost your HGH level.

Interval Training—A Much Better Cardio Workout

Most people still think that in order to improve your cardiovascular fitness, endurance training is a must. But this is actually not true. Quite the contrary. According to fitness expert Phil Campbell, getting cardiovascular benefits actually requires working ALL your muscle fibers and their associated energy systems. Interestingly enough, this cannot be achieved with traditional cardio, and here’s why: Your body has three types of muscle fibers: slow, fast, and super-fast twitch muscles, and your heart has two different metabolic processes:

·         The aerobic, which requires oxygen for fuel

·         The anaerobic, which does not require any oxygen

Slow twitch muscles are the red muscles, which are activated by traditional strength training and cardio exercises. The fast and super-fast twitch muscles are white muscle fibers, which are only activated during high intensity interval exercises or sprints. Activating the fast and super-fast muscles is also what causes the production of therapeutic levels of growth hormone, as mentioned earlier. Many athletes spend $1,000 a month on HGH injections, which carry certain health risks, but there’s really no need for that. With Peak Fitness exercises and the use of the Power Plate, you can increase your levels of HGH to healthy young normal’s.

Now, traditional cardio exercises work primarily the aerobic process, associated with your red, slow-twitch muscles. High-intensity interval training, on the other hand, work both your aerobic AND your anaerobic processes, which is what you need for optimal cardiovascular benefit. Quite simply, if you don’t actively engage and strengthen all three muscle fiber types and energy systems, then you’re not going to work both processes of your heart muscle. Many mistakenly believe that cardio works out your heart muscle, but what you’re really working is your slow twitch muscle fibers, associated with the aerobic process only. You’re not effectively engaging the anaerobic process of your heart…

Demonstration of an Effective High Intensity Interval Session

In the case of high intensity exercises, less is more, as you can get all the benefits you need in just a 20-minute session performed twice to three times a week. It’s inadvisable to do them more than three times a week. If you do, you may actually do more harm than good—similar to running marathons. Because while your body needs regular amounts of stress like exercise to stay healthy, it also needs ample recuperation, and if you give it more than you can handle your health will actually begin to deteriorate. As a general rule, as you dial up the intensity, you can dial back on the frequency. While the entire workout is only 20 minutes, 75 percent of that time is warming up, recovering or cooling down. You’re really only working out intensely for four minutes:

·         Warm up for three minutes

·         Exercise as hard and fast as you can for 30 seconds. You should feel like you couldn’t possibly go on another few seconds

·         Recover at a slow to moderate pace for 90 seconds

·         Repeat the high intensity exercise and recovery 7 more times

For Optimal Health, Add Variety to Your Fitness Routine

While high intensity interval exercises accomplish greater benefits in a fraction of the time compared to slow, endurance-type exercises like jogging, I don’t recommend limiting yourself to that alone. Of equal, if not greater importance, is to avoid being too sedentary in general. Compelling research now tells us that prolonged sitting can have a tremendously detrimental impact on your health even if you exercise regularly. The reason for this is because your body needs to interact with gravity in order to function optimally. Therefore, make sure to get out of your chair every 10 minutes or so, as suggested below.

Ideally, to truly optimize all aspects of your health, you’d be wise to design a well-rounded fitness program that incorporates a variety of different exercises. Without variety, your body will quickly adapt, so as a general rule, as soon as an exercise becomes easy to complete, you’ll want to increase the intensity and/or try another exercise to keep it challenging. I recommend incorporating the following types of exercise into your program:

1.    Interval (Anaerobic) Training: This is when you alternate short bursts of high-intensity exercise with gentle recovery periods.

2.    Strength Training: Rounding out your exercise program with a 1-set strength training routine will ensure that you’re really optimizing the possible health benefits of a regular exercise program. You can also “up” the intensity by slowing it down. For more information about using super slow weight training as a form of high intensity interval exercise, please see my interview with Dr. Doug McGuff.

3.    Avoid Sitting for More Than 10 Minutes. This is not intuitively obvious but emerging evidence clearly shows that even highly fit people who exceed the expert exercise recommendations are headed for premature death if they sit for long periods of time. My interview with NASA scientist Dr. Joan Vernikos goes into great detail why this is so, and what you can do about it. Personally, I usually set my timer for 10 minutes while sitting, and then stand up and do one legged squats, jump squats or lunges when the timer goes off. The key is that you need to be moving all day long, even in non-exercise activities.

4.    Core Exercises: Your body has 29 core muscles located mostly in your back, abdomen and pelvis. This group of muscles provides the foundation for movement throughout your entire body, and strengthening them can help protect and support your back, make your spine and body less prone to injury and help you gain greater balance and stability.

Foundation Training, created by Dr. Eric Goodman, is an integral first step of a larger program he calls “Modern Moveology,” which consists of a catalog of exercises. Postural exercises such as those taught in Foundation Training are critical not just for properly supporting your frame during daily activities, they also retrain your body so you can safely perform high-intensity exercises without risking injury. Exercise programs like Pilates and yoga are also great for strengthening your core muscles, as are specific exercises you can learn from a personal trainer.

5.    Stretching: My favorite type of stretching is active isolated stretches developed by Aaron Mattes. With Active Isolated Stretching, you hold each stretch for only two seconds, which works with your body’s natural physiological makeup to improve circulation and increase the elasticity of muscle joints. This technique also allows your body to repair itself and prepare for daily activity. You can also use devices like the Power Plate to help you stretch.

Exercise Tips for Those with Chronic Health Problems

Remember that even if you’re chronically ill, exercise can be a potent ally. That said, if you have a chronic disease, you will of course need to tailor your exercise routine to your individual scenario, taking into account your stamina and current health. For example, you may at times need to exercise at a lower intensity, or for shorter durations, but do make a concerted effort to keep yourself moving. Just listen to your body and if you feel you need a break, take time to rest. But even exercising for just a few minutes a day is better than not exercising at all.

In the event you are suffering from a severely compromised immune system, you may want to exercise in your home instead of visiting a public gym. But remember that exercise will ultimately help to boost your immune system, so it’s very important to continue with your program, even if you suffer from chronic illness.

Exercise Is More Effective Than Potent Medicines

The take-home message here is that one of the best forms of exercise to protect your heart is short bursts of exertion, followed by periods of rest. By exercising in this way, you recreate exactly what your body needs for optimum health. Heart attacks, for example, don’t happen because your heart lacks endurance. They happen during times of stress, when your heart needs more energy and pumping capacity, but doesn’t have it. So rather than stressing your heart with excessively long periods of cardio, give interval training a try.

During any type of exercise, as long as you listen to your body, you shouldn’t run into the problem of exerting yourself excessively. And, with interval training, even if you are out of shape you simply will be unable to train very hard, as lactic acid will quickly build up in your muscles and prevent you from stressing your heart too much.

Most importantly, the featured review is a powerful message to anyone considering taking a medication to address risk factors and lower your risk of heart disease. There’s simply no evidence suggesting that statins or beta blockers are any more effective than exercise, which means you can forgo all the side effects and exorbitant expense associated with such drugs.  

Remember what these Harvard and Stanford University researchers concluded after reviewing 305 studies comparing exercise versus drug treatment: “[E]xercise interventions should… be considered as a viable alternative to, or, alongside, drug therapy.” What could possibly be more empowering than that?!

Vigorous Exercise May Significantly Lower Your Stroke Risk.

Story at-a-glance

  • A new study shows that vigorously exercising at least four times per week can reduce your risk of a stroke, especially if you’re a man; the results are unclear if you’re a woman
  • This study (and some prior studies) seem to suggest that women may respond better to less vigorous exercise, such as walking, although most studies don’t take into account that all forms of cardio are not equal
  • Vigorous exercise is important for overall health, but conventional cardio is risky due to the extreme stress on your heart, which may cause inflammation, plaque, arrhythmias, and even heart attack or stroke
  • Regardless of your gender or age, you can optimize your exercise benefits by doing high-intensity interval training, which pushes your body hard enough for a challenge while allowing adequate time for recovery and repair
  • You can further reduce your stroke risk by getting adequate sunshine for the vitamin D and nitric oxide benefits, grounding yourself to the earth, and consuming adequate fiber, especially the soluble variety.
  • Vigorous Exercise

Exercise is one of the best ways to keep yourself healthy. The benefits of exercise for lowering your heart attack risk, reducing stress, and helping to prevent obesity and diabetes are widely known.

Well, now you can add another big one to your list of benefits from breaking a sweat: reduced risk of stroke.

The American Heart Association reports 800,000 Americans suffer from stroke each year. Stroke is the leading cause of disability in the US and the fourth leading cause of death. Up to 80 percent of strokes are preventable, because for the most part, strokes are the result of unhealthy lifestyle choices.

Recent research published in the journal Stroke1 found that, if you’re inactive, you have a 20 percent higher risk for having a stroke or mini-stroke (transient ischemic attack) than people who exercise enough to break a sweat at least four times a week.

The study involved more than 27,000 Americans for an average of 5.7 years, male and female, Caucasian and African-American. It included a larger proportion of people from the “Stroke Belt” states, where stroke rates are higher (Virginia, Tennessee, the Carolinas, Mississippi, Louisiana, Georgia, Florida, Arkansas, and Alabama).

The connection between vigorous exercise and stroke risk was very clear in men, but interestingly, less clear in women. Lead researcher Dr. Michelle McDonnell speculates that women may benefit more from less vigorous exercise, such as walking, which this study did not examine.2

Stroke Rates Increasing Among Younger People

Your risk of stroke increases with age, with most occurring after age 55. However, younger people are increasingly at risk, according to the latest statistics.

The rate of strokes among younger people (under age 55) nearly doubled between 1993 and 2005.3 The primary driving forces behind this are increasing rates of obesity, diabetes and high blood pressure—which can all increase your risk for suffering a devastating stroke.

Stress is also a significant risk factor for stroke, just as it is for heart attack. According to a 2008 study in Neurology,4 the more stressed you are, the greater your stroke risk—especially a fatal one. Heart attacks and stroke have many other risk factors in common, including:

A Stroke Is a ‘Heart Attack in Your Brain’

Heart attacks and strokes are both events in which cells die from lack of oxygen. With a heart attack, your heart is the affected organ, but with a stroke, it’s your brain.

A stroke involves either a rupture of an artery that feeds your brain (hemorrhagic stroke), or an obstruction of blood flow (ischemic stroke), with the ischemic type representing 75 percent of all strokes. In both types, your brain does not get enough oxygen and glucose, in addition to pooled blood putting physical pressure on areas of your brain.

And then there are mini-strokes, or TIAs (transient ischemic attacks). Each year, as many as 500,000 Americans experience TIAs, caused by temporary blockages in cerebral blood vessels, with symptoms similar to those of a stroke but oftentimes milder and shorter in duration.

Although less imminently dangerous than a full stroke, they should NOT be ignored. According to an article by Loyola University Medical Center’s journal,Expert Review of Neurotherapeutics, 10 to 15 percent of people experiencing TIAs will experience a full-blown stroke within three months, and 40 percent of those will occur in the first 24 hours.5 Stroke victims experience a variety of sudden symptoms, the most common being those listed in the table that follows.

Weakness, numbness, or paralysis in one arm or leg Sudden speech difficulties
Loss of coordination or trouble walking Confusion, memory loss or other sudden cognitive deficit
One-sided facial paralysis or facial droop Sudden visual problems
Sudden severe headache Dizziness

If you or someone you love suffers a stroke, getting medical help quickly can mean the different between life and death, or permanent disability. This is an area where conventional medicine excels, as there are emergency medications that can dissolve a blood clot that is blocking blood flow to your brain. If done quickly enough, emergency medicine can prevent or reverse permanent neurological damage—but you typically need treatment within one hour, which means the faster you recognize the warning signs, the better the prognosis. The National Stroke Association recommends using the FAST acronym to help remember the warning signs of stroke:6

F = FACE: Ask the person to smile. Does one side of the face droop?

A = ARMS: Ask the person to raise both arms. Does one arm drift downward?

S = SPEECH: Ask the person to repeat a simple phrase. Does their speech sound slurred or strange?

T = TIME: If you observe any of these signs, call 9-1-1 immediately.

Exercise Reduces Stroke Risk—But ONLY the Right Kind of Exercise

There have been a number of scientific studies about the benefits of exercise in stroke prevention, and recovery from stroke. Differences between men and women, in terms of the type of exercise that is best, have appeared in more than one study to date. The thing to keep in mind is, not only is it important to get enough exercise, but you must be doing thecorrect kind of exercise if you want to reap the benefits, which I’ll be discussing in more detail shortly. Further research is definitely needed in order to clarify how much and what type of exercise is best for men and women, in terms of preventing stroke.

  • ·A 2013 study published in Stroke7 concluded that walking at least three hours per week reduces stroke risk in womenbetter than inactivity, but also better than high intensity cardio. This may have something to do with the inordinate amount of physical stress “conventional cardio” has on the heart, and the fact that people generally do too much of it for too long. Perhaps women are more susceptible to these risks than men.

Conventional cardio can cause arrhythmias, and in some cases, atrial fibrillation (A-fib), which is a known risk factor for stroke. It would be of value to study the effects of high-intensity interval training (HIIT) on stroke risk in both men and women, which is very different than conventional cardio. But unfortunately, when cardio has been studied, it’s usually the conventional type.

  • ·In 2009, a study in Neurology8 found that vigorous exercise reduces stroke risk in men, as well as helping them recover from a stroke better and faster. However, moderate to heavy exercise was not found to have a protective effect for women. I would expect the right type of cardio would be found to lower stroke risk in both men and women, but those studies have not yet been done.
  • ·In 2012, Canadian researchers found that stroke patients who exercised were able to improve problems with their memory, thinking, language and judgment by close to 50 percent in just six months. Notable improvements in attention, concentration, planning and organizing, as well as benefits to muscle strength and walking, were seen among stroke patients who exercised.
  • ·In 2008, a study published in Neurology9 found that people who are physically active before a stroke have less severe problems and recover better, compared to those who didn’t exercise prior to their stroke.

Several recent scientific studies indicate that conventional cardio, especially endurance exercises such as marathon and triathlon training, pose significant risks to your heart, some of which may be irreversible and life threatening. Long-distance running can lead to acute volume overload, inflammation, thickening and stiffening of the heart muscle and arteries, arterial calcification, arrhythmias, and potentially sudden cardiac arrest and stroke.

I don’t think anyone can argue against the fact that vigorous exercise is beneficial to your heart and brain, but conventional cardio is just not the way to do it. This could be why the cardio benefits to women are not being detected in these studies… but that’s just a theory.

Ideally, to get the most benefits from your exercise, you need to push your body hard enough for a challenge while allowing adequate time for recovery and repair to take place. One of the best ways to accomplish this is with HIIT, or high intensity interval training, which consists of short bursts of high-intensity exercise, as opposed to extended episodes of exertion. This is a core part of my Peak Fitness program, which Phil Campbell was instrumental in helping me develop. Briefly, a Peak Fitness routine typically includes:

  • ·Warm up for three minutes
  • ·Exercise as hard and fast as you can for 30 seconds. You should feel like you couldn’t possibly go on another few seconds
  • ·Recover for 90 seconds
  • ·Repeat the high intensity exercise and recovery cycle 7 more times

You can do HIIT by running/sprinting (if you love running), or by using gym equipment such as a treadmill or elliptical machine, or you can accomplish the same thing without running at all by doing super-slow weight training, as I demonstrate in the video above. HIIT maximizes your secretion of human growth hormone (HGH), optimizes your metabolism and helps regulate your insulin and blood sugar. And it takes far less time than training for a marathon! You can do a complete Peak Fitness workout in 20 minutes or less.

The Importance of Recovery

Remember, adequate recovery is crucial between workouts. This includes not only resting your body, but also giving it the nutrients it needs for complete recovery. Your post-workout meal can support or impair your recovery. For instance, consuming a fast-assimilating protein such as high-quality whey protein within 30 minutes of your workout will essentially “rescue” your muscles out of their catabolic state and supply them with the nutrients they need to make their repairs. Any sort of intense exercise should also be balanced with strength training, proper stretching, core strengthening, stress reduction, good sleep and an optimal nutrition plan. You’ll find much more information about HIIT and other types of exercise in the fitness section of my website.

Three Bonus Tips for Stroke Prevention

Here are three simple tips for further lowering your stroke risk—but by no means is this a comprehensive list. For more information about lifestyle changes specific to preventing stroke, please refer to this recent stroke prevention article.

  1. SunshineSunlight causes your skin to produce nitric oxide, a critical compound for optimizing your blood pressure, which reduces your risk for both heart attack and stroke. Nitric oxide enhances blood flow, promotes blood vessel elasticity, and functions as a signaling molecule in your brain and immune system.

And of course, exposing your skin to the sun also helps optimize your vitamin D level, which should be between 50 and 70ng/ml, or higher if you have a serious illness.

  1. Grounding. Walking barefoot on the Earth, aka “earthing” or “grounding,” has a potent antioxidant effect that helps alleviate inflammation throughout your body. It also makes your blood less prone to “hypercoagulation”—so, less apt to clot—and that reduces your stroke risk.

There is a constant flow of energy between our bodies and the earth. When you put your feet on the ground, you absorb large amounts of negative electrons through the soles of your feet, which reduces the tendency of your blood cells to “clump together.” Technically, grounding increases the zeta potential of your red blood cells causing them to repel each other and become less sticky, very similar to a natural anticoagulant.

Research has demonstrated that it takes about 80 minutes for the free electrons from the earth to reach your blood stream and transform your blood, so make it a point to regularly walk barefoot on grass or on wet sand for about 90 minutes to two hours, if possible.

  1. Fiber. If you eat more fiber, you will probably reduce your chances of a stroke, according to a report in the journalStroke.10 For every seven grams more fiber you consume daily, your stroke risk is decreased by seven percent, according to this study.

Fiber is the non-digestible part of plants, which can be either soluble or non-soluble; soluble fiber was found to lower stroke risk the most. Soluble fiber can also help nurture beneficial gut bacteria, which are critical for good health. The American Heart Association and UK health authorities recommend adults consume 25 grams of dietary fiber each day, but I think you should get upwards of 32 grams per day and most Americans don’t get anywhere near this amount.

Great sources of fiber include seeds (especially chia, psyllium, sunflower, and organic flax), berries, vegetables such as broccoli and cauliflower, root vegetables and tubers (including onions and sweet potatoes), almonds, and beans (legumes).

Exercise as Effective as Drugs for Heart Disease, Pre-diabetes, and Stroke – NaturalNews.tv