Every day, a new study is published heralding the benefits of physical
fitness. Everybody knows they should probably exercise more…
but finding the motivation and the time can be difficult.
How much do you work out each week? Hopefully,
the new findings that physical activity can improve cognitive
function throughout a lifespan will motivate you to exercise more—regardless of your age.
Resistance training promotes cognitive and functional brain plasticity in seniors with probable mild cognitive impairment (1)
Strength training is increasingly promoted for its many health-related benefits including a lower risk to all causes of mortality,
fewer cardiovascular events (i.e., heart attack, stroke), improved body composition, better glucose metabolism and insulin sensitivity,
and lower blood pressure in persons with pre-hypertension and hypertension (Garber et al., 2011). Garber and colleagues continue that resistance
training is a suitable intervention for the prevention and/or management of osteoporosis, osteoarthritis and metabolic syndrome.
Surprisingly, much less research has focused on the mental health benefits of resistance training in women and men. Recently, O’Connor,
Herring, and Carvalho (2010) completed an extensive literature review on this topic. Highlights from their findings are summarized in this research column. (2)
The thought of doing something as ordinary as going to the grocery store used to overwhelm Becky Stuto, who’s experienced depression for about 13 years.
“Depression … is like bricks or a lead cape that you wear that is just weighing you down,” she says. “Every task is overwhelming.”
But today when Stuto, a 45-year-old associate clinical social worker in Sacramento, California,
cracks her last egg or depletes her dark chocolate stash, a trip to the grocery store seems like what it is:
something she, like everybody else, simply has to do now and then. “I’m OK with it,” she says.
“I feel lighter; my way of thinking is more proactive and not just stagnant.” (3)
Your heart, your brain – your entire body – benefits from exercise.
Although there are no sure-fire recipes for good health, the mixture of healthy eating and regular exercise comes awfully close. Most of The Nutrition Source is dedicated to singing the praises of a good diet. This is where physical activity gets its due.
Regular exercise or physical activity helps many of the body’s systems function better, keeps heart disease, diabetes, and a host of other diseases at bay, and is a key ingredient for losing weight. According to the 2008 Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans, being physically active on a regular basis
- Improves your chances of living longer and living healthier
- Helps protect you from developing heart disease and stroke or its precursors, high blood pressure and undesirable blood lipid patterns
- Helps protect you from developing certain cancers, including colon and breast cancer, and possibly lung and endometrial (uterine lining) cancer
- Helps prevent type 2 diabetes (what was once called adult-onset diabetes) and metabolic syndrome (a constellation of risk factors that increases the chances of developing heart disease and diabetes; read more about simple steps to prevent diabetes)
- Helps prevent the insidious loss of bone known as osteoporosis
- Reduces the risk of falling and improves cognitive function among older adults
- Relieves symptoms of depression and anxiety session an and improves mood
- Prevents weight gain, promotes weight loss (when combined with a lower-calorie diet), and helps keep weight off after weight loss
- Improves heart-lung and muscle fitness
- Improves sleep