Amazing Health Benefits of Exercise During This Unprecedented Time

What can you do to keep you and your family safe during this extremely stressful time? We now know wearing a mask, hand washing and social distancing improves our chances of staying healthy. The health benefits of exercise coupled with the above advice may be just the answer. We have been looking to put a dent in this pandemic as a CV-19 resurgence is brewing. This might be just the one two punch needed to knock this pandemic out for good.

The following is a look at just a few of the many health benefits of exercise. Many of us are sadly experiencing more stress since March 11, 2020. The cumulative effect of all this stress is obviously not healthy for the body. A recent study showed younger people are not exercising at a rate as pre-pandemic. One group, however, that is not part of this inactive group, are individuals sixty-five and older. They are finding time to exercise in record number. How about the rest of us?

Take Advantage of the Many Health Benefits of Exercise

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Exercise Improves Mood and Mental Health

During each exercise session, the body releases chemicals like endorphins and dopamine that improve our mood and make us feel more relaxed. Another chemical you may not have heard much about is brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF). It may be the most important chemical released during exercise since it fosters long-term brain health. BDNF acts not only as a growth factor, it also promotes the formation of new connections between nerve cells. As a result, regular exercise helps you manage stress better and reduce your risk of depression.

“People suffering from depression are 2.5 times more likely to have experienced stressful life events. Exercise appears to help buffer these negative life events,” according to the authors of the book, Exercise for Mood and Anxiety.

Regular Exercise Will Improve Sleep

As I’m sure any physician or exercise expert will tell you, sleep is a critical component for mind and body restoration. With an inadequate amount of sleep, the body will eventually have issues with the recovery and building processes from that days workout. It has a lot to do with your central nervous system (CNS). When the body goes away from getting optimal amount of sleep – no matter what the reasons – the CNS does not get time to fully “recharge” or recover. Why is this even important? Because your CNS is responsible for reaction time and initiating muscle contractions and much more. As a result, the body becomes slower and will feel weaker in workouts.

Health Benefits of Exercise: Studies Demonstrate if You “Do It” You Live Longer

Author Dan Beuttner of the Blue Zones has spent most of his career studying populations that live longer. The different “blue zones” that he studies are areas from around the world where people were 3 times more likely to reach 100 years old who followed a series of strategies. Two of the more important were the types of food someone ate on a regular basis and daily activity.

Walking more is associated with longer life. Adults who walked 8,000 steps per day had a 51 percent lower risk of all-cause mortality, compared to those who walked 4,000 steps a day as reported by researchers in a JAMA study. Not into walking but you like to run? A study in the British Journal of Sports Medicine reported any amount of running, even once a week, was associated with a 27 percent lower risk of all-cause mortality.

Regular Strength Training Keeps You Healthy

One of the first things you think of when strength training comes to mind is muscle. When done correctly, strength training builds additional muscle mass. This in turn keeps someone healthier and more functional, especially as they age. The health benefits of exercise – especially strength training – include increased bone strength as well. Remember, that tendons connect muscle to bone. As we lift weights, the resistance creates a “pulling” effect on the tendon that consequently pulls on the bones making them stronger over time.

Data from a 2017 study looking at more than 28,000 women from the Women’s Health Study showed “a moderate amount (≈1–145 minutes/week) of strength training was associated with lower risk of all‐cause mortality compared with 0 minutes/week, independent of aerobic activity.” In a second systematic review study of 1430 studies, showed resistance training was associated with a 21 percent lower all-cause mortality and that number more than doubles when aerobic exercise is added. According to the authors, “resistance training is associated with lower mortality and appears to have an additive effect when combined with aerobic exercise.”

There probably has not been a more important time to either start or maintain your exercise routine. The benefit of reducing stress alone should be enough to make you exercise most days of the week. Try using the Jefit app to help make your life a bit easier as well. The award-winning app will help you plan, record and track your strength training sessions. Stay strong especially during these stressful times!

Five Powerful Ways to Improve Performance

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It seems everyone is looking for ways to improve performance. You can be a high school, college or professional athlete, it doesn’t matter, we’re all looking to get better. The same holds true when it comes to our diet and working out. There are many ways to optimize performance such as fueling your body with high octane fuel. If nutrition is not your goal, it may come in the form of recovery aids like an ice bath after a workout, mobility work before a workout or simply getting more uninterrupted sleep. The following five methods may lend some insight into this topic.

Improve Performance with Caffeine

A simple yet effective way to elevate performance is having caffeine prior to exercise. A good recommendation is between 3 to 13 mg of caffeine per kilogram of bodyweight. For a deeper look at the benefits of caffeine on exercise performance, check out the International Society of Sports Nutrition position stand on caffeine and performance.

Enhanced Mobility is Key

Mobility refers to a joint moving through its full range of motion, unrestricted and without pain. When you’re unable to do this, its dysfunctional movement. The end result is inefficient range of motion which prevents optimal performance. Moreover, the body does not work to its full potential because of this restricted movement. Simply put, improving mobility will make you stronger, run faster and jump higher.

Try Nasal Breathing Over Mouth Breathing

Something top athletes have known when trying to improve their performance, that it’s better to breath through the nose versus the mouth. This may sound trivial but trust me it’s not. There are many scientific research papers and books published on the topic. The book, Breath by James Nestor, talks at length about the importance of nasal breathing. Check it out to learn about the history and additional information on the benefits of nasal breathing.

Nasal breathing, as opposed to mouth breathing, offers a wide range of advantages, especially when it comes to more efficient exercise. It basically allows more oxygen to get to your active tissues when you exercise. Exercise stimulates nitric oxide production just like nasal breathing does. Nitric oxide is also involved in bodily processes like widening blood vessels, known as vasodilation. This, in turn, increases delivery of oxygen to working muscles during exercise. The by-product of all this is enhanced exercise performance.

Avoid Stretching Prior to Exercise. Do a Dynamic Warm-up Instead

Stretching prior to exercise is not beneficial unless you’re looking to decrease power output. Rather, perform a brief (5-10 minute) dynamic warm-up before any running or strength training session. Dynamic warm-up exercises are usually bodyweight exercises like lunges, squats, push-ups, hops, inchworm, shoulder rolls or leg swings, to name a few examples. The research all points to using dynamic warm-up over static-type stretching before athletic competition or exercise in general.

Recovery (More Sleep) Improves Performance

When adequate recovery between workouts, does not occur, the body will invariably have trouble adapting to the demands of training. Shifting mindset, making sleep a top priority, will go well beyond just lifting more weight in the next workout. A study published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal showed individuals getting less than 5.5 hours of sleep a night, lost 60 percent more lean muscle that those who got adequate sleep. Additional research from the University of Chicago showed subjects who monitored their caloric intake and averaged 5.5 hours of sleep had more body fat compared to subjects who were consistently getting 8.5 hours of sleep.

We know losing lean muscle and gaining body fat is never a good mix, especially if you’re looking to improve the way you do things. The book, Biological Rhythms and Exercise, looks at the relationship between performance and sleep. The author, Thomas Reilly, states, “weight-training exercises may be unaffected by partial sleep loss early on in a training session, but the performance suffers due to lack of drive and concentration as the (exercise) session continues.”

There are many healthy ways that someone can improve performance. Hopefully, one of the ways mentioned will do just that.

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