Exercise is crucial to our health—it keeps us closer to an ideal body weight, boosts brain function, and of course, helps to keep our cardiovascular system as healthy as can be. And it turns out, being in better physical health may also improve the chances of surviving a heart attack, new research suggests.

The study, conducted by researchers from the Henry Ford Health System, in Detroit, and Johns Hopkins, in Baltimore, and published in the current issue of the journal Mayo Clinic Proceedings, found that the more often people exercise, the better equipped they’ll be at surviving a heart attack.

The researchers looked at data from more than 2,000 adults who’d taken exercise stress tests prior to having a heart attack. Most of the subjects were in their early 60s.

“Most were in their early 60s and fewer than half were women,” reports CBS News. “Something about being fitter prior to the heart attack helped protect people when measured one month, three months, and one year after it happened,” CBS News reports. “The average time between the stress test and the heart attack was about six years.”

The benefits of exercise on the cardiovascular system are already well established; numerous studies support this claim. But this study is among the first of its kind to link higher levels of fitness to a reduced risk of death from a heart attack.

Not only that, but the fit patients who survived the heart attack also maintained a higher level of fitness post-attack, and that also improved their prognosis for avoiding future heart attacks.

Su just how much exercise does one need to keep their body healthy enough to survive a heart attack? There’s no hard and fast rule about it, but the researchers suggest 75 minutes of intense cardio activity per week, such as running, a spin class, or other vigorous physical activity. If “vigorous” isn’t how you approach your workouts, then aim for 150 minutes of more moderate exercise—a yoga class, a leisurely hike or bike ride.

 Image: Fort Wainright's Public Affairs Office

Increasing Exercise to Lose Weight May Not Work, Study Finds

If a little exercise is better than no exercise, then a lot of exercise is best, right? Especially if you’re increasing your exercise to lose weight. Well, not exactly, says new research.

The study, published in the journal Current Biology, looked at exercise efforts and how they affected weight loss goals.

What the researchers noted was that too much exercise can cause your body hold back, preventing itself from gaining all the benefits of the added activity. This may be why, if you’ve tried pushing further with your workouts, weight loss kind of stops.

"Exercise is really important for your health," says study author Herman Pontzer, from City University of New York. 

"There is tons of evidence that exercise is important for keeping our bodies and minds healthy, and this work does nothing to change that message,” he told RT. “What our work adds is that we also need to focus on diet, particularly when it comes to managing our weight and preventing or reversing unhealthy weight gain."

The researchers actually looked at a remote Tanzanian tribe called the Hadza for the study.

“The Hadza are incredibly active, walking long distances each day and doing a lot of hard physical work as part of their everyday life.

"Despite these high activity levels, we found that they had similar daily energy expenditures to people living more sedentary, modernized lifestyles in the United States and Europe. That was a real surprise.” And says Pontzer, it triggered him to think about “the link between activity and energy expenditure." 

What resulted was that among the Hadza, those who were less active among the tribe were actually conserving more energy than those more active. “The more active the person, the less calories they burned with time,” RT explains.

Does that mean you shouldn’t exercise as much?

It may, especially if you’ve recently increased your workout intensity or frequency. But it certainly does not mean you should stop exercising—movement is a critical part of staying healthy.

But now at least, you don’t have to feel so guilty about skipping a workout every now and then.

image: adifansnet 

 

Motivating to hit the gym and maintain a healthy exercise routine is tough any time of the year—especially when cold weather makes sinking into the couch all the more appealing. But you might actually find yourself more committed to a rigorous workout in hopes of fending off the cold or the flu.

While a healthy and fit body is one of the best defenses against getting sick, there’s a fine line of course. Here are a few ways you may inadvertently be sabotaging your health via your workout and how to stop it. 

  1. Not cleaning exercise equipment: You’re at the gym—a step toward a healthier you—but did you wipe down the machine before or after you used it? Germs are definitely passed through contact and some can linger on surfaces for hours. Make sure you’re using a clean towel (not the one you wipe your hands and face with) to wipe down machines.
  1. Pushing yourself to hard: Exercise is a great way to warm yourself up in the cold winter, but that might also push you to push yourself harder. Don’t. Going overboard, whether on cardio, weight training, or a fitness class, can put excess pressure on your body and may make you more vulnerable to germs. Seek a reasonable workout level—pushing to the edge without jumping off head first.
  1. Inconsistency: On the same token as going too far, not doing enough can leave your body ripe for a virus, too. Exercise helps the body to create immune-boosting cells, and not enough physical activity can make you more susceptible to the season’s germs. 
  1. Working out when you’re already sick: Think you can sweat out that virus? Think again! While it’s no fun laying around in bed for days on end, rest really is the best thing for a compromised body. And even though you may feel good enough to hit the gym, it’s really not the best approach. Take a short walk instead, or do some yoga poses in your home if you really feel the need to be active. But don’t go push yourself into a Barre class or out for a 5-mile run. And of course, consider your fellow gym-goers who you risk contaminating with your germy presence.
  1. Not drinking enough water: Dehydration doesn’t just strain your muscles and organs, it can also make you more defenseless against cold and flu germs. While your thirst may be diminished in the winter, you really need to make sure you’re drinking plenty of water so your body can effectively flush out toxins or fight the ones already giving you the aches and sneezes. If you find yourself not drinking adequate amounts of water on your own, set alarms for several times during the day to remind you to drink a glass or two of water. Another way to remember to drink water is to do it before each meal.

image: gbsk

5 Protein Smoothie Hacks to Perfect Your Mixology

We may be in the dead of winter, but there’s always room for a protein smoothie in the mix! Especially if you’re using them as part of your fitness program or weight loss goals. Make yours better, easier, and more nutritious with these smoothie hacks.

Smoothies are so great; they’re a simple and effective delivery system for proteins like whey powder. We love them on the go, before or after a workout, and as snacks for kids. But smoothies can be so laborious! Here’s how to max your smoothie benefits with a few simple hacks. 

1. Pre-measure your smoothie: Granted, this will take you a bit of work a few times a month, but it’ll save you time in the long run. Got a favorite (or a few) smoothie recipe? Cut and measure out your frozen fruits (essential to any smoothie) and freeze them in individual bags for easier dump and blend smoothies.

For one smoothie, try using ½ of a banana, a cup or so of other fruits like berries, peaches, or pineapple. And add in a couple handfuls of chopped greens like kale, spinach, or watercress.

Drop the ingredients into bags, suck the air out before sealing and then simply grab one and mix with your liquid and protein powders.

2. Another excellent smoothie hack is to freeze smoothies after they’re made. Blend up a big batch of your favorite smoothies and freeze them in mason jars (just leave about an inch at the top so it doesn’t break). Defrost your smoothie for about 90 minutes before you plan to drink it. Perfect timing is to pop it out of the freezer just before you head out for your workout.

3. Buy your protein in bulk: There’s nothing worse than heading to the pantry to dole out your protein powder for your smoothie and find there’s barely a scoop left. You’ve got options, though. You can buy in bulk (by the case) to make sure you always have some on hand. Or try setting up an auto-ship subscription so more is always on the way.

4. Max your clean up: Nobody likes cleaning up the gloppy blender, right? Here’s the hack everyone will love: Squirt in some dish soap and water and flip the blender to high and it’ll do most of the cleaning work for you!

5. Get a reusable straw: Whether you make your own smoothies or grab one on the go, straws get lost or forgotten all too often. They also contribute unnecessary waste to landfills. Get yourself a reusable glass, bamboo, or metal straw and always carry it in your purse or gym bag so you’re never left with smoothie mustache.

 image: jules:stonesoup

Standing Desks Boost Brain Power Too, Study Finds

Reading this at your desk? You may just want to stand up, if you’re not already. The verdict is in about standing desks (or other fitness desks) and it’s better than you probably thought.

If you spend a significant amount of your day at a desk, you may have heard that, while the pay may be good, there’s a serious downside: sitting for hours on end isn’t doing your health any favors. In fact, it’s downright lethal, leading to increased risks for earlier death.

Enter the “standing desk” and exercise desks like those built on top of treadmills or exercise bikes. While not a substitute for a true workout, standing or exercising while you work is a multitaskers dream come true. And it may have benefits for your brain as well as your otherwise inactive body.

That’s according to a new study that shows a connection between standing desks and improved cognitive function. The research, published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, looked at how high school students performed over the course of the year when they switched to standing desks. 

“[C]ontinued use of standing desks was associated with significant improvements in [the students’] executive function and working memory capabilities,” noted lead study author Ranjana Mehta, PhD, of the Department of Environmental and Occupational Health at Texas A&M. 

“Interestingly, our research showed the use of standing desks improved neurocognitive function, which is consistent with results from previous studies on school-based exercise programs,” Mehta said. “The next step would be to directly compare the neurocognitive benefits of standing desks to school-based exercise programs.”

The study is the first of its kind to link standing desks to improved brain function, and mirrors other research that’s looked at the relationship between exercise and cognitive skills. And while the research focused on younger students, there’s every reason to believe that a standing or moving desk will help older people too. So get a leg up—literally—and see how standing improves your work performance. And life in general.

image: Jace 

What’s the Difference Between Whey Protein and Casein Protein (And Which is Right for You?)

Finding the perfect protein product for your health and fitness goals can be daunting. Just spend five seconds in the protein powder aisle of any supermarket or health food store and you’ll be heading to the couch to lay down—not the gym!

Whey protein, casein protein—how do these two popular proteins stack up? Is there one that’s best for you?

Whey protein is a hugely popular protein choice. According to Dr. Josh Axe, it’s the most popular protein powder in the world because of its muscle-building and weight-loss benefits. 

Whey’s also an excellent source of amino acids and the super antioxidant, glutathione. Because of whey’s complex chemical profile, it’s been linked to numerous health benefits aside from those that impact your fitness routine. It’s no wonder it’s so popular.

But what about casein protein?

Both whey and casein come from cow’s milk. But that doesn’t mean they’re the same. Casein may also be promoted as “milk protein” because casein is so abundant in milk—about 80 percent of the protein in milk is casein. 

Like whey, casein is loaded with branched-chain amino acids. It’s an easily digestible protein, but it stays in the body longer, which may aid in boosting your muscle mass by enhancing protein synthesis.

But if you’re looking for a protein powder to enhance your workout performance, whey might be the better choice because it contains more of the branched-chain amino acids than casein. Whey also works faster, meaning your muscles are going to reap the benefits more quickly with whey than with casein.

Casein is also the protein that causes dairy allergies or sensitivities. So if you have a history of dairy issues, whey is going to be the safer choice. 

When choosing either a whey protein or casein protein product, make sure to look for organic and grass-fed sources as they’re going to provide a much cleaner and more nutritious product than conventionally-raised dairy.

image: east midtown

Can’t seem to shake the belly fat even with a vigorous exercise regimen? You may want to have a look at the number of sugary beverages you’re drinking on any given day.

According to recent research published in the journal Circulation, people with a sugary beverage habit are also likely to have a greater accumulation of deep belly fat, also known as visceral fat.

Visceral fat is closely linked with type 2 diabetes and a greater risk of developing heart disease.

The study looked at the dietary habits of more than 1,000 adults and noted that those who consumed at least one sugar-sweetened beverage per day were more likely to see a greater increase in deep abdominal belly fat over the following six years.

While not the first study to link excessive sugar consumption to health risks including belly fat, but, according to the Chicago Tribune, it’s the first study of its kind to suggest a "mechanism" behind the relationship between sugary drinks and belly fat.

“At the outset, 13 percent of the study group said they drank at least one sugar-sweetened beverage every day,” reports the Tribune. “And on average, those men and women showed the greatest increase in visceral fat over the next six years.

“Compared with people who never had sugary drinks, daily consumers accumulated about 27 percent more visceral fat.”

The American Beverage Association, an industry trade organization representing the major manufacturers of sweetened beverages, says the study doesn’t prove that sugary beverages are the cause behind all belly fat.

But it certainly shows strong correlation.

People who regularly consume sugary beverages may also be more likely to consume other less healthy foods including processed and fast foods, making their overall dietary habits ripe for causing the gain in visceral fat.

Looking to reduce your sugary beverage habit? 

Start drinking more water, particularly upon waking and again before each meal. The more water you drink, the more hydrated you are and the less likely you’ll be to chug down sugary drinks.

And try to start your day off with a protein-packed smoothie, sweetened only with fresh fruit. Adding a high-quality whey protein to your smoothie will also give you a protein boost that can keep you from craving sugary beverages.

image: orin zebest

Should You Eat Before a Workout? Or After? That May Depend on Your Gender, Study Says

Should you eat before a workout if you want to burn fat? Or is after the better choice? Well, are you male or female? Because it matters, says new research out of the UK.

According to the BBC's “Trust Me I'm A Doctor” program, University of Surrey, England, researchers noted that the benefits of exercise varied for men and women, particularly when they ate a meal—before or after the workout, reports the Daily Mail.

Researchers recruited 30 volunteers: 13 men and 17 women who weren’t normally very active. The subjects committed to an exercise regimen, taking three fitness classes a week for four weeks-- a high intensity training class, Zumba and a spin class. The researchers measured how much fat the volunteers burned at the beginning and end of the experiment, including how much fat they burned while resting. They also measured blood fat and blood sugar levels as well as waist size.

The participants were asked to consume a beverage before and after class that was either a calorie-controlled carbohydrate drink or a calorie-free placebo.

What the researchers noted was rather interesting: when women consumed the carbohydrates before the workout, they burned more fat than the men by as much as 22 percent more. 

For the men, the opposite was true; in general they burned less fat, and after the workout caloric intake helped them to burn 8 percent more fat overall.

The reason may have something to do with how muscles store carbohydrates. Because men are naturally more muscly than women, if they push more carbs into their bodies before a workout, the body will burn through those (since there is already the reserve in the muscles) and never burn the fat.

For women, the researchers noted eating carbohydrates before the workout is ideal, and if fat-burning is the goal, wait at least 90 minutes after exercising before eating. In fact, the researchers note that eating too early after a workout can stop the (female) body’s fat-burning process, essentially undoing all the exercise if the goal is weight loss.

And to maximize weight loss efforts, combine a slow carbohydrate such as a whole grain, legume, or not-to-sweet fruit, with a high protein food, such as whey protein.

image: whologwhy

Could Whey Protein Help Manage Type 2 Diabetes

Everyone’s favorite pre- and post-workout recovery food seems to have some secret benefits--good news if you've been diagnosed with type 2 diabetes.

There’s an obesity epidemic in the country right now. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than one-third of U.S. adults are obese, and with obesity comes numerous risks for diet-related illnesses such as type 2 diabetes. The CDC also estimates that more than 29 million Americans—about 9 percent of the population—suffer from type 2 diabetes.

Type 2 diabetes occurs when too much sugar (in any form) is in the diet on a regular basis—which is also a hallmark behavior connected to obesity. The more processed, sugary foods we eat, the more likely we are to become obese and increase our risk for type 2 diabetes, a chronic illness that impairs insulin function in the blood to control blood sugar levels.

Whey protein, which is prized for being a muscle building and weight loss aiding superfood, may help in moderating blood sugar levels, too. That’s the findings of several studies looking at the impact of protein-rich foods on insulin levels.

Compared to other lean proteins like fish or eggs, whey protein showed the most notable benefits. Authority Nutrition says it may even be comparable to diabetic drugs like sulfonylurea (although you should never stop taking a prescription drug for diabetes unless advised by your primary care physician).

While whey protein may be beneficial for individuals already diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, its blood sugar moderating abilities may be even more effective as a defense against getting the disease in the first place.

Consuming whey before or with an excessive amount of carbohydrates and sugars may help to slow the release of sugar into the bloodstream, keeping insulin effective at doing its job, and reducing the risk of developing type 2 diabetes. 

Okko Pyykkö

Are fitness plans among your New Year’s resolutions for 2016? You may want to make sure your kids are aiming to be active this year as well as new research points to the healthy gut bacteria as a benefit of early exercise habits.

The research, conducted by University of Colorado at Boulder, was published in a recent issue of the journal Immunology and Cell Biology.

According to the research, regular physical activity at a young age can help friendly gut bacteria proliferate, and influence your metabolism over the course of your life.

Our digestive systems begin to colonize with bacteria shortly after we’re born. One of the most prolific components in breast milk is indigestible by babies; it’s meant instead for bacteria that inhabit the growing digestive tract, the microbiome. These bacteria use it as food, and as they grow and cover the intestines, they help prevent the onset of illnesses and diseases.

Gut health in infancy will influence gut health as adults, the researchers note. And maintaining that health throughout life may come down to how active an individual is.

 “In one study, for example, juvenile rats who voluntarily exercised daily went on to develop a microbial community containing more ‘good bacteria’ in the gut compared to their sedentary counterparts, or adults who also performed physical activity,” reports Forbes

While it’s still not known why or when the exercise activity begins to benefit gut health, but the researchers note it’s a significant discovery as gut health also correlates to brain health.

 “Previous research has shown that the human brain responds to microbial signals from the gut, though the exact communication methods are still under investigation,” reports Science Daily.

"Future research on this microbial ecosystem will hone in on how these microbes influence brain function in a long-lasting way," said Agniezka Mika, a graduate researcher in CU-Boulder's Department of Integrative Physiology and the lead author of the new study.

The research also comes just after another study looked at the physical fitness levels of obese people and determined health is still at risk from obesity-related early deaths, even if the overweight person exercises, pointing to an ongoing link between eating a well-balanced, healthy diet, and maintaining physical activity on a regular basis.

image: phalinn

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