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A fun way to get more exercise

How to get people to use the stairs

I received this from Enrique, a dear student of ours, and I thought it was worth sharing with you. I am not into advertising any particular firm but the idea merits exposure.

Exercise slows aging in Women

For all you gals - use it or lose it!

I always like to have some good news for all you beautiful gals. I got into Yoga and a healthy active life style many moons ago because of all the evidence that exercise prevented premature aging  and disease in men. Now I hope that all you women can take heart from all the women's studies evidence and not take the superficial path of esthetic surgery and medication.

The slight extra effort pays off in the long run. I have taken the trouble to sight the studies, not to bore you, but to assure you that the evidence is extremely convincing and keeps pointing in the same direction - as my dear godfather used to say: Use it or lose!

Women health studies

Higher levels of physical activity help with the prevention of physical impairment and cognitive decline, together or separately, not only for men but also for women. Physical inactivity is one of the best predictors of poor aging in women.

Physical exercise for women

A higher quantiity of physical exercise has already been shown to improve conditions such as osteoarthritis, hip fractures and falls, heart disease, cancer, respiratory disease, diabetes, obesity and low fitness. Newer studies show the same effects for women and also demonstrate a reduced risk of cognitive decline.women doing Yoga at Yoga Center Madrid

Skeptics claim that of course the healthier people are the ones that exercise to begin with. However, new studies have randomly assigned inactive people to exercise programs and others to a placebo control group. The results show that physical exercise increased the chances of remaining healthy.

A Harvard School of Public Health study reported that among the 13,535 nurses who were healthy when they joined the study in 1986, the physically active ones were still active more than a decade later when they were in their 70's.


In a metanalysis of 52 studies of exercise and colon cancer, researchers concluded that those who were most active were 21 percent less likely to develop the disease, perhaps because activity stimulates the bowel. The risk of breast cancer, is 16 percent lower among physically active women. Exercise may protect postmenopausal women against many different cancers, such as of the endometrium, pancreas, colon and esophagus, by keeping their weight down.

Heart disease

Aerobic exercise is a valuable protector of the heart and blood vessels. It maintains the heart's resistance to work, decreases blood pressure and raises the 'good' HDL-cholesterol. Because of these positive effects of exercise active women have fewer heart attacks and strokes.

Studies of women ages 50 to 79, who walk quickly for 30 minutes a day five days a week, and do some vigorous exercise, reduced their risk of heart attacks and heart disease. Women who walked about one hour a day were 40 percent less likely to have a stroke than women who did not walk an hour a week.


Activity has even been shown to lower the risk of developing diabetes in women of normal weight. A study of 68,907 healthy female nurses found that those who didn't exercise had twice the risk of developing diabetes, and those who who didn't exercise and were obese had 16 times the risk when compared with the normal-weight active women.

Another study of prediabetic men and women that assigned them to modest physical activity (at least 2.5 hours a week) found exercise more effective than the drug metformin at preventing full diabetes.


As you age, one of the greatest benefits of regular physical exercise will be its ability to prevent or delay your loss of cognitive function. A new study of healthy men and women over 55 found that those who were physically active more than three times a week were the least likely to lose cognitive capacity.

An Australian study randomly assigned 170 volunteers with memory problems to a 180 day program of physical activity or to a control group. The exercise group resulted in “a modest improvement in cognition.” Other studies confirm that exercise helps older people maintain short-term memory, which enables them to plan, schedule, multitask, and store information and eventually use it effectively.

So - Use it or Lose it!

Exercise fuels the brain's stress buffers

The article below is excerpted from the American Psychological Association help center. I thought you might find it interesting to learn directly what the psychology profession believes about the positive impact of exercise on stress.

Exercise fuels the brain's stress buffers

Exercise may improve mental health by helping the brain cope better with stress, according to research into the effect of exercise on neurochemicals involved in the body's stress response.

Preliminary evidence suggests that physically active people have lower rates of anxiety and depression than sedentary people. But little work has focused on why that should be. So to determine how exercise might bring about its mental health benefits, some researchers are looking at possible links between exercise and brain chemicals associated with stress, anxiety, and depression.

So far there's little evidence for the popular theory that exercise causes a rush of endorphins. Rather, one line of research points to the less familiar neuromodulator norepinephrine, which may help the brain deal with stress more efficiently.

Work in animals since the late 1980s has found that exercise increases brain concentrations of norepinephrine in brain regions involved in the body's stress response.

Norepinephrine is particularly interesting to researchers because 50 percent of the brain's supply is produced in the locus coeruleus, a brain area that connects most of the brain regions involved in emotional and stress responses. The chemical is thought to play a major role in modulating the action of other, more prevalent neurotransmitters that play a direct role in the stress response. And although researchers are unsure of exactly how most antidepressants work, they know that some increase brain concentrations of norepinephrine.

But some psychologists don't think it's a simple matter of more norepinephrine equals less stress and anxiety and therefore less depression. Instead, they think exercise thwarts depression and anxiety by enhancing the body's ability to respond to stress.

Biologically, exercise seems to give the body a chance to practice dealing with stress. It forces the body's physiological systems - all of which are involved in the stress response - to communicate much more closely than usual: The cardiovascular system communicates with the renal system, which communicates with the muscular system. And all of these are controlled by the central and sympathetic nervous systems, which also must communicate with each other. This workout of the body's communication system may be the true value of exercise; the more sedentary we get, the less efficient our bodies in responding to stress.

Thanks to Rod K. Dishman, PhD, of the University of Georgia, and Mark Sothmann, PhD, of Indiana University's School of Medicine and School of Allied Health Sciences.

The Best Exercise for Healthy Bones

Healthy Bones?

A special section of Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, the journal of the American College of Sports Medicine detailed a continuing controversy in the field of sports science about exactly how exercise works on bone and why sometimes, it doesn’t. “There was a time, not so long ago,” when most researchers assumed “that any and all activity would be beneficial for bone health,” says Dr. Daniel W. Barry, an assistant professor of medicine at the University of Colorado, at Denver, who has studied the bones of athletes and the elderly.

Human skeleton - esqueleto humanoRecent Research

Recent findings are showing that competitive swimmers had lower-than-anticipated bone density, and that competitive cyclists sometimes had fragile bones and, finally, some studies suggest, that weight lifting did not necessarily strengthen bones much. Too much endurance exercise may actually reduce bone density. In a study by Dr. D.W. Barry, competitive cyclists lost bone density during a long training season. Dr. Barry says that it’s possible that exercise that is too prolonged or intense may lead to too much calcium loss through sweat. The endocrine system may interpret this loss of calcium as serious enough to start leaching the mineral from bone.

The Best Exercise

The current message about exercise and bone building may be that the best exercise is to simply jump up and down. "Jumping is great, if your bones are strong enough to begin with,” Dr. Barry says. “You probably don’t need to do a lot either.” (If you have a family history of osteoporosis, check with a doctor.) Woman jumping, skipping - mujer saltando

Hopping also aids in balance, which may be as important as bone strength in keeping fractures at bay. Dr. Barry says, “fragile bones don’t matter, from a clinical standpoint, if you don’t fall down.

Why Exercise Makes You Less Anxious

Exercise Creates new Brain Cells

Researchers at Princeton University recently made a remarkable discovery about how neurons respond differently to stress than to inactivity. Scientists have known for some time that exercise stimulates the creation of new brain cells (neurons) but not how, precisely, these neurons might be functionally different from other brain cells.

Exercise creates a Calm Brain

Preliminary results presented at the annual meeting of the Society for Neuroscience in Chicago, showed that experimental rats had created, through running, a brain that seemed biochemically, molecularly, calm when presented with stressful situations.

Downward dog in an Ashtanga Yoga Class

How Exercise Remodels the Brain

For years, it has been a given that exercise enhances mood. But how exercise might directly affect mood and anxiety — psychological states — was unclear. Now, thanks to improved research techniques scientists are beginning to tease out how exercise remodels the brain, making it more resistant to stress. At the University of Colorado, Boulder, scientists have examined the role of the neurotransmitter serotonin, considered to be the “happy” brain chemical. The view of serotonin has been undermined by this and other research. In those experiments, rats exposed to a laboratory stressor, showed increased serotonin activity in their brains. But those rats, that had run for several weeks before being stressed, showed less serotonin activity and were less anxious and helpless despite the stress.

Moderate Exercise reduces Effects of Oxidative Stress

Researchers have looked at how exercise alters the activity of the dopamine neurotransmitter in the brain, and on the antioxidant powers of moderate exercise. Anxiety in people has been linked with excessive oxidative stress, which can lead to cell death, including in the brain. Moderate exercise, appears to reduce the effects of oxidative stress. In an experiment at the University of Houston, rats whose oxidative-stress levels had been artificially increased were extremely anxious when faced with unfamiliar terrain during laboratory testing. But rats that had exercised, even if they had received the oxidizing chemical, were relatively calm under stress. When placed in unfamiliar circumstances, they didn’t run and hide, like the unexercised rats. They casually explored.

Positive Stress of Exercise

“It looks more and more like the positive stress of exercise prepares cells and structures and pathways within the brain so that they’re more equipped to handle stress in other forms,” says Michael Hopkins, affiliated with the Neurobiology of Learning and Memory Laboratory at Dartmouth, who has been studying how exercise differently affects thinking and emotion. “It’s pretty amazing, really, that you can get this translation from the realm of purely physical stresses to the realm of psychological stressors.”

Virabhadrasana Yoga Center Madrid

Don’t Quit, Keep Exercising

The stress-reducing changes evoked by exercise on the brain don’t happen overnight. In the University of Colorado experiments, rats that ran for only three weeks did not show much reduction in stress anxiety, but those that ran for six weeks did. “Something happened between three and six weeks,” says Benjamin Greenwood, a researcher in the Department of Integrative Physiology at the University of Colorado. Dr. Greenwood added that it was “not clear how that translates” into exercise advice for humans. We do not know how intense the exercise needs to be. Dr. Greenwood says, the lesson is “don’t quit.” Keep running or cycling or swimming or doing Yoga. You may not feel a magical reduction of stress after your class, if you haven’t been exercising. But the molecular biochemical changes will begin, Dr. Greenwood says. And eventually, he says, they become “profound.”

See the New York Times

Why Doesn’t Exercise Lead to Weight Loss

Exercise and Slimming

Just because you exercise it doesn’t necessarily mean that you lose weight. A study published in The British Journal of Sports Medicine in September reported disappointing weight loss results. 58 obese people, in the study, completed 12 weeks of supervised aerobic training without changing their diets. The average weight loss for the group was a little more than 3 kilos, and many lost barely half that.

Calories from Fat or Carbohydrates

Apparently, few people lose weight with exercise alone, they must also change their eating habits. A study from the University of Colorado School of Medicine in Denver tries to explain why. The researchers studied several groups of people. Some were lean endurance athletes; some sedentary and lean; some sedentary and obese. The researchers could tell whether the calories expended were in the form of fat or carbohydrates. Burning more fat than carbohydrates is desirable if you want to lose weight, since the fat comes from body fat stores.



To their surprise, the researchers found that none of the groups, not even the athletes, experienced “afterburn.” They did not use additional body fat on the day when they exercised. Actually, many of the subjects burned slightly less fat over the period when they exercised than when they did not.

Heart Rates for Fat Burning

To reduce your body fat, and maximize fat burning, The Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, recommends a range of heart rates. “Heart rates of between 105 and 134” beats per minute, Carey said, represent the fat-burning zone. “It’s probably best to work out near the top of that zone,” he says, “so that you burn more calories over all” than at the lower end.

How to Keep it Off

How to keep it offThankfully, exercise helps, physiologically, to keep off body fat once it has been lost, through resolute calorie reduction. Exercise seems to reset certain metabolic pathways that blunted the body’s drive to replace the lost fat. So don’t stop running marathons or participating in bike races, yet. The exercise keeps it off once you’ve lost it!


Does Exercise Improve Cognition ?

Exercise changes the Brain

It has been known for a long time that exercise changes the structure of the brain and affects thinking. A groundbreaking finding was published ten years ago by scientists at the Salk Institute in California showing that exercise stimulates the creation of new brain cells. But there are still some important questions to resolve, like whether exercise should be strenuous to create new brain cells. What about weight lifting? Should it be aerobic?  Are the cognitive improvements temporary or permanent?

human brain mri scans-cerebro humano

What Exercise makes you Smarter?

The American College of Sports Medicine, studied 21 students at the University of Illinois to see how well they could memorize a string of letters and then pick them out from a list flashed at them. Immediately afterwards they were asked to perform one of three things for 30 minutes —run on a treadmill, lift weights or sit quietly, — before doing the letter test again. After a 30-minute cool down, they were tested once again. A few days afterwards, the students came back to try the other two options. The students were much quicker and more accurate after they ran than with the other two options, and they performed better when tested after the cool down. “There seems to be something different about aerobic exercise,” says Charles Hillman, an associate professor in the department of kinesiology at the University of Illinois and an author of the study..

Brisk walking or Stretching?

Similarly, in studies with elderly people, performed by scientists at the University of Illinois, assigned a six-month program of either stretching exercises or brisk walking. Those who did the  stretching improved their flexibility but did not improve on tests of cognition. Those who practiced brisk walking did.

Pattabji Jois teaching Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga

Why Does the Exercise need to be Strenuous?

Why does exercise need to be aerobic to improve brain function? “It appears that various growth factors must be carried from the periphery of the body into the brain to start a molecular cascade there,” so that new neurons and brain connections are created, says Henriette van Praag, an investigator in the Laboratory of Neurosciences at the National Institute on Aging. To create new brain cells, “you need a fairly dramatic change in blood flow,” like what happens when you run, cycle or swim. Weight lifting, produces “growth factors in the muscles that stay in the muscles and aren’t transported to the brain,” van Praag says.


The current research findings suggest that,  “It would be fair to say that any form of regular exercise should be able to maintain or even increase our brain functions [if ii is aerobic].” says Chauying J. Jen, a professor of physiology at National Cheng Kung University, in Taiwan.. What we need to keep in mind is that there are many kinds of exercise and their effects may be quite different. As we become better informed we can choose our own combination of exercise practices - aerobics, Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga of Pattabhi Jois, Power Yoga, Vinyasa Yoga, swimming. tennis etc., each type for its specific contribution to health and wellbeing.

See Gretchen Reynolds in the New York Times, 16/09/2009.