Many people hit the gym or pound the pavement to improve cardiovascular health, build muscle, and of course, get a rockin’ bod, but working out has above-the-neck benefits, too. For the past decade or so, scientists have pondered how exercising can boost brain function. Regardless of age or fitness level (yup, this includes everyone from mall-walkers to marathoners), studies show that making time for exercise provides some serious mental benefits. Get inspired to exercise by reading up on these unexpected ways that working out can benefit mental health, relationships, and lead to a healthier and happier life overall.
“Eat vegetables before or with meals. Whether you are hungry on your way home or right when you walk in the door, snacking on veggies can help you keep your portions in check once you sit down to a meal. I also recommend starting your dinner with a vegetable salad or vegetable soup to fill you up and prevent overeating. — Ilyse Schapiro, MS, RD, CDN, author of Should I Scoop Out My Bagel?
“Inactivity is associated with increased risk for a number of cancers, including colon and breast cancer,” McCleary says. “Exercise has been linked with a decreased risk of developing cancer, death from cancer, and recurrence of certain cancers.” The suggested mechanisms at play include exercise’s beneficial effects on the immune and surveillance systems that detect and kill cancer cells, improved cardio-respiratory status, improved hormonal profiles, weight maintenance, and other beneficial metabolic effects, he says.
Like protein, fiber slows the rate at which your body plows through carb calories so you feel full for longer and maintain steadier blood sugar levels, one reason why research consistently links fiber intake to weight loss. That means fibrous whole grain bread tends to be a better choice than white bread and also explains why fruits, which contain fiber and valuable vitamins in addition to sugar, beat straight-up candy every time.
Weight loss ultimately comes back to the concept of calories in, calories out: Eat less than you burn and you’ll lose weight. And while it’s possible to lose water weight quickly on a low-carb diet, I certainly wouldn’t advocate for it. The diet itself can trick you into thinking that this eating style is working — when really, you might gain back what you lost as soon as you eat carbs again. That can feel incredibly dispiriting if you want results that last longer than a week.
Nowadays people are generally less active day to day. Most of us drive cars or take public transport rather than cycling or walking to work, with fewer of us working in manual jobs. Many then leave work to watch TV, use phones, computers and tablets as entertainment in the evening. Too much prolonged sitting can cause serious health problems. It is thought to slow your metabolism, affecting the body's ability to regulate blood sugar, blood pressure and break down body fat which in turn can increase your chances of getting a number serious health conditions including heart disease, type 2 diabetes, obesity and some cancers.
Does that sound like too much exercise per week to lose weight? Don't think you can sustain an exercise session for 22 to 35 minutes? Don't worry. You don't have to do the exercise all at once. And you don't even need to exercise every day. In fact, there are many different ways to change the duration and intensity of your workouts so you don't get bored or burned out.
You already know that a perfect diet doesn't exist, but many of us still can't resist the urge to kick ourselves when we indulge, eat too much, or get thrown off course from restrictive diets. The problem: This only makes it more difficult, stressful, and downright impossible to lose weight. So rather than beating yourself up for eating foods you think you shouldn't, let it go. Treating yourself to about 200 calories worth of deliciousness each day — something that feels indulgent to you — can help you stay on track for the long haul, so allow yourself to eat, breathe, and indulge. Food should be joyful, not agonizing!
Be choosy about carbs. You can decide which ones you eat, and how much. Look for those that are low on the glycemic index (for instance, asparagus is lower on the glycemic index than a potato) or lower in carbs per serving than others. Whole grains are better choices than processed items, because processing removes key nutrients such as fiber, iron, and B vitamins. They may be added back, such as in “enriched” bread.
“Whether you have ten pounds to lose or 100, the first thing you should do is create an environment for success.” That requires removing all temptation from your kitchen and reorganizing your pantry for weight loss. “Collect all of the processed, sugary and fatty foods from your house, and bring them to a local food bank for donation. Then restock your kitchen with healthy groceries—real, natural, whole foods—like fresh fruits and vegetables, almonds and lean proteins like turkey, chicken, fish and eggs.” — Chris Powell, the trainer who has helped hundreds of overweight people lose up to half their body weight on ABC’s reality series Extreme Weight Loss
Want to blow away your belly without logging months of mind-numbing hours on the treadmill? High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) will kickstart your metabolism like no other workout, burning more than twice the calories as a lighter and longer session, according to a study from Southern Illinois University. And the total amount of time you need to dedicate to HIIT: 20 minutes. It really is the least time exercising for the biggest results.
Why: The battling ropes may have been labelled as another fitness fad, but there's method to the noisy twine-slamming in the corner of most well-equipped gyms. The Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research found that ten 15-second bursts of battle ropes upped participant's heart rate to 180 BPM – the same as cycling or an all-out full-body sprint.
Even if you do meet your goal, it's nearly impossible to keep off the weight over the long term: "The amount of restriction required [to maintain that number] will make you so hungry that you’ll eat everything in sight—it’s survival instinct," Dr. Seltzer says. And since calorie restriction gradually slows your metabolism, your body will be less prepared to burn the foods you binge on, he adds. That could mean gaining more pounds than you lost in the first place.
Some people feel better supplementing the already active T3 (sometimes prepared from pig thyroid glands), as it can give a stronger effect than the T4 hormone, but its effect is often harder to control. Swedish healthcare rarely prescribes or offers such T3 treatment, as it often lacks advantages and may pose a risk when doses are high for an extended period of time.
Simply popping a few almonds in your mouth could help you shed pounds, and not just because almonds are better for you than, say, candy. A study published in the Journal of the American Heart Association found that eating 1.5 ounces of almonds a day reduced belly and leg fat. And another study of overweight adults found that people who ate ¼ cup of almonds for 6 months had a 62 percent greater reduction in weight and BMI.
Feeling uninspired in the cubicle? The solution might be just a short walk or jog away. Research shows that workers who take time for exercise on a regular basis are more productive and have more energy than their more sedentary peers Employee self-rated productivity and objective organizational production levels: effects of worksite health interventions involving reduced work hours and physical exercise. Von Thiele Schwarz, U, Hasson, H. Department of Psychology, Stockholm University, Stockholm, Sweden. Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, 2011 Aug;53(8):838-44. A randomized controlled trial of the effect of aerobic exercise training on feelings of energy and fatigue in sedentary young adults with persistent fatigue. Puetz, T.W. Flowers, S.S., O’Connor, P.J. Department of Kinesiology, University of Georgia, Athens, GA. Psychotherapy and Psychosomatics, 2008;77(3):167-74. Epub 2008 Feb 14.. While busy schedules can make it tough to squeeze in a gym session in the middle of the day, some experts believe that midday is the ideal time for a workout due to the body’s circadian rhythms.
Be sure to maintain a healthy, balanced diet alongside exercise. This is not just important for your general health, it helps you recover after exercise. Cutting out certain food groups, such as carbohydrates, or eating too much of one food can cause more harm than good. There are many ‘fad’ diets offering a ‘quick win’, but the key to long-term weight management (and, therefore, good health) is balance.