The physical benefits of exercise — improving physical condition and fighting disease — have long been established, and physicians always encourage staying physically active. Exercise is also considered vital for maintaining mental fitness, and it can reduce stress. Studies show that it is very effective at reducing fatigue, improving alertness and concentration, and at enhancing overall cognitive function. This can be especially helpful when stress has depleted your energy or ability to concentrate.
When stress affects the brain, with its many nerve connections, the rest of the body feels the impact as well. Or, if your body feels better, so does your mind. Exercise and other physical activity produce endorphins — chemicals in the brain that act as natural painkillers — and also improve the ability to sleep, which in turn reduces stress.
Scientists have found that regular participation in aerobic exercise has been shown to decrease overall levels of tension, elevate and stabilize mood, improve sleep, and improve self-esteem. About five minutes of aerobic exercise can begin to stimulate anti-anxiety effects.
Walking is a well-balanced form of exercise for most people, regardless of age. Many people are able to maintain a modest level of fitness through a regular walking program. Walking is relatively easy on the joints. During walking, at least one foot is on the ground at all times, so the force with which the foot strikes the ground is never much more than the person’s weight. However, walking expends fewer calories than does running and places fewer demands on the heart. Walking slowly will not make a person very fit.
To walk faster, a person can take longer steps and move the legs faster. Steps can be lengthened by swiveling the hips from side to side so that the feet can reach further forward. Swiveling the hips tends to make the toes point outward when the feet touch the ground, so the toes do not reach as far forward as they would if they were pointed straight ahead. Therefore, a person should always try to point the toes straight ahead while walking. Moving the arms faster helps the feet move faster. To move the arms faster, a person bends the elbows to shorten the swing and reduce the time the arms take to swing back and forth from the shoulder. People with instability (whether due to poor balance or weakness) or severe joint injury may find walking difficult. Also, even vigorous walking does not strengthen the upper body and has little strengthening effect on the lower body unless the person is initially very deconditioned.
Diabetes and exercise go hand in hand, at least when it comes to managing your diabetes. Exercise can help you improve your blood sugar control, as well as boost your overall fitness and reduce your risk of heart disease and stroke.
But diabetes and exercise pose unique challenges, too. Remember to track your blood sugar before, during and after exercise. Your records will reveal how your body responds to exercise — and help you prevent potentially dangerous blood sugar fluctuations. Before exercise: Check your blood sugar before your workout Before jumping into a fitness program, get your doctor’s OK to exercise — especially if you’ve been inactive. Discuss with your doctor which activities you’re contemplating and the best time to exercise, as well as the potential impact of medications on your blood sugar as you become more active. For the best health benefits, experts recommend 150 minutes a week of moderately intense physical activities such as: -Fast walking
If you’re taking insulin or medications that can cause low blood sugar (hypoglycemia), test your blood sugar 30 minutes before exercising and approximately every 30 minutes during exercise. This will help you determine if your blood sugar level is stable, rising or falling and if it’s safe to keep exercising.
Consider these general guidelines relative to your blood sugar level — measured in milligrams per deciliter (mg/dL) or millimoles per liter (mmol/L). -Lower than 100 mg/dL (5.6 mmol/L). Your blood sugar may be too low to exercise safely. Eat a small carbohydrate-containing snack, such as fruit or crackers, before you begin your workout. -100 to 250 mg/dL (5.6 to 13.9 mmol/L). You’re good to go. For most people, this is a safe pre-exercise blood sugar range. -250 mg/dL (13.9 mmol/L) or higher. This is a caution zone. Before exercising, test your urine for ketones — substances made when your body breaks down fat for energy. Excess ketones indicate that your body doesn’t have enough insulin to control your blood sugar. If you exercise when you have a high level of ketones, you risk ketoacidosis — a serious complication of diabetes that needs immediate treatment. Instead, wait to exercise until your test kit indicates absence or a low level of ketones in your urine. -300 mg/dL (16.7 mmol/L) or higher. Your blood sugar may be too high to exercise safely, as these high glucose levels may increase your risk of dehydration and ketoacidosis. Postpone your workout until your blood sugar drops to a safe pre-exercise range.
Insomnia affects up to 25 per cent of the population. Symptoms vary from having difficulty getting to sleep or not being able to stay asleep, to waking early or having a restless sleep and not waking refreshed. Here are some natural solutions to help you sleep well. 1-Sleeping herbs
Unlike prescription sleeping tablets, herbal sedatives are not addictive. Take one dose after dinner, and again before bed. Effective sleeping herbs include one or more of the following: Californian poppy, zizyphus, valerian, hops, lemon balm and passion flower. 2-Supper
A light meal with some carbohydrates will increase serotonin levels and steady blood sugar levels. Both states are very calming for the body. Try an old fashioned cup of hot milk and honey, cheese and plain biscuit, or even half a banana before bed. 3-Sleep hygiene
The term ‘sleep hygiene’ sounds like you need to be super clean before going to bed. However, it’s a set of commonsense routines that improve sleeping patterns. Such as going to bed at the same time, keeping the bedroom quiet and serene, avoiding afternoon naps or caffeine after midday, and anything too stimulating before bed including extreme exercise or scary movies. 4-No night caps
Although a drink may be relaxing and make you feel sleepy, alcohol interferes with the sleep cycle, particularly REM (rapid eye movement) sleep. This means you miss out on the restful and restorative night’s sleep your body desires.
Two types of exercise help improve sleep. One wears you out such as running, cycling and weights. This type of exercise is best taken in the morning. The second helps to calm and soothe body and mind, including yoga, Pilates and Tai Chi. 6-Bath before bed
You have your deepest sleep when the body temperature is at its lowest, usually in the early hours of the morning. By artificially heating the body with a warm bath or shower, the internal thermostat attempts to lower body temperature, persuading the brain to think you are heading towards the land of nod. 7-Sleep hormone
Melatonin is a hormone produced by the pineal gland. It helps regulate the body’s 24 hour circadian rhythm. Shift work, frequent long distance air travel and poor sleep affect melatonin levels. In Australia, melatonin is available on prescription. 8-Stop thinking
Incessant mind chatter is one reason people find it difficult to fall asleep. Take your mind off your mind by practicing progressive muscle relaxation (the new age version of counting sheep). When lying in bed, take your awareness to your toes, allowing them to feel heavy and relaxed. Work your way progressively up the body in this manner. You are likely to drift off along the way.
Exercise probably helps ease depression in a number of ways, which may include: -Releasing feel-good brain chemicals that may ease depression (neurotransmitters and endorphins) -Reducing immune system chemicals that can worsen depression -Increasing body temperature, which may have calming effects
Exercise has many psychological and emotional benefits too. It can help you: -Gain confidence. Meeting exercise goals or challenges, even small ones, can boost your self-confidence. Getting in shape can also make you feel better about your appearance. -Take your mind off worries. Exercise is a distraction that can get you away from the cycle of negative thoughts that feed anxiety and depression. -Get more social interaction. Exercise may give you the chance to meet or socialize with others. Just exchanging a friendly smile or greeting as you walk around your neighborhood can help your mood. -Cope in a healthy way. Doing something positive to manage anxiety or depression is a healthy coping strategy. Trying to feel better by drinking alcohol, dwelling on how badly you feel, or hoping anxiety or depression will go away on its own can lead to worsening symptoms.
Exercise in almost any form can act as a stress reliever. Being active can boost your feel-good endorphins and distract you from daily worries.
You know that exercise does your body good, but you’re too busy and stressed to fit it into your routine. Hold on a second — there’s good news when it comes to exercise and stress. Virtually any form of exercise, from aerobics to yoga, can act as a stress reliever. If you’re not an athlete or even if you’re downright out of shape, you can still make a little exercise go a long way toward stress management. Discover the connection between exercise and stress relief — and why exercise should be part of your stress management plan. Exercise increases your overall health and your sense of well-being, which puts more pep in your step every day. But exercise also has some direct stress-busting benefits. -It pumps up your endorphins. Physical activity helps to bump up the production of your brain’s feel-good neurotransmitters, called endorphins. Although this function is often referred to as a runner’s high, a rousing game of tennis or a nature hike also can contribute to this same feeling. -It’s meditation in motion. After a fast-paced game of racquetball or several laps in the pool, you’ll often find that you’ve forgotten the day’s irritations and concentrated only on your body’s movements. As you begin to regularly shed your daily tensions through movement and physical activity, you may find that this focus on a single task, and the resulting energy and optimism, can help you remain calm and clear in everything that you do. -It improves your mood. Regular exercise can increase self-confidence and lower the symptoms associated with mild depression and anxiety. Exercise also can improve your sleep, which is often disrupted by stress, depression and anxiety. All this can ease your stress levels and give you a sense of command over your body and your life.
With improved medicine and better education about how to care for ourselves, we’re living longer nowadays and healthier too. But there are plenty of little things you can do every day to supercharge your longevity. 1-Step away from the remote.
Participants who watched four or more hours of TV per day were nearly 50 percent more likely to die from any cause than those who limited their TV consumption to under two hours. 2-Eat a handful of nuts every day.
In recent years we’ve heard all about the benefits of omega-3s and their heart-health goodness. But if you can’t stomach those fishy-smelling capsules, try adding nuts to your daily diet. In a 30-year study, Harvard researchers found that people who ate nuts every day were 20 percent less likely to die from any cause during the study, than those who didn’t. The more frequently people ate nuts, the lower their risk of death was. 3-Ease up on the red meat.
It’s alright to enjoy the occasional steak or treat yourself at your favorite burger joint — just don’t overdo it. 4-Go for a jog.
We know the immediate benefits of exercise — the post-workout endorphin release, a clearer mind, and lower blood pressure just to name a few. But do many of us think of the long term benefits other than what exercise can do for our waistlines? 5-Find your Zen.
A study at University of California-Davis found people who regularly practice meditation have higher levels of telomerase. That’s the enzyme responsible for lengthening the telomeres at the ends of your chromosomes, which affect aging.
For most healthy adults, the Department of Health and Human Services recommends these exercise guidelines: -Aerobic activity. Get at least 150 minutes a week of moderate aerobic activity or 75 minutes a week of vigorous aerobic activity. You also can do a combination of moderate and vigorous activity. The guidelines suggest that you spread out this exercise during the course of a week. -Strength training. Do strength training exercises at least twice a week. No specific amount of time for each strength training session is included in the guidelines. Moderate aerobic exercise includes such activities as brisk walking, swimming and mowing the lawn. Vigorous aerobic exercise includes such activities as running and aerobic dancing. Strength training can include use of weight machines or activities such as rock climbing or heavy gardening. As a general goal, aim for at least 30 minutes of physical activity every day. If you want to lose weight or meet specific fitness goals, you may need to exercise more. Want to aim even higher? You can achieve more health benefits, including increased weight loss, if you ramp up your exercise to 300 minutes a week. Short on long chunks of time? Even brief bouts of activity offer benefits. For instance, if you can’t fit in one 30-minute walk, try three 10-minute walks instead. What’s most important is making regular physical activity part of your lifestyle.
Regular aerobic exercise can bring remarkable changes not just to your body, your metabolism, and your heart, but also to your spirits, reports the February 2011 issue of Harvard Men’s Health Watch.
Aerobic exercise is the key for your head, just as it is for your heart. It has a unique capacity to exhilarate and relax, to provide stimulation and calm, to counter depression and dissipate stress. Endurance athletes commonly experience the restorative power of exercise, and this has been verified in clinical trials that have used exercise to treat anxiety and depression. How can exercise contend with problems as difficult as anxiety and depression? There are several explanations, some chemical, others behavioral. The mental benefits of aerobic exercise have a neurochemical basis. Exercise reduces levels of the body’s stress hormones, such as adrenaline and cortisol. It also stimulates the production of endorphins, the body’s natural painkillers and mood elevators.
Behavioral factors contribute to the emotional benefits of exercise. As your waistline shrinks and your strength and stamina increase, your self-image will improve. You’ll earn a sense of pride and self-confidence. Your renewed vigor will help you succeed in many tasks, and the discipline will help you achieve other lifestyle goals. Exercise and sports also provide opportunities to enjoy some solitude or to make friends and build networks. Harvard Men’s Health Watch notes that you should exercise nearly every day. That doesn’t necessarily mean hitting the gym. But it does mean at least 30 minutes of moderate activity. And if you need more help with stress, consider autoregulation exercises involving deep breathing or muscle relaxation.
If you suffer from migraines, you might think that exercising more will make your migraines worse. In reality, exercising more can reduce the frequency and duration of your migraines. While doctors are uncertain about the exact mechanisms underlying the triggers of migraines, some general principles are known. It seems that exercise reduces migraines directly by increasing the availability of certain brain chemicals, like serotonin. Studies have also shown that exercising more can help reduce migraines indirectly by promoting a better sleep schedule.