From Maesk Counseling in Fort Lauderdale - Get Fit Now!

Great article from American Heart Association News. It’s never too late to get in shape, but don’t put it off too long!

Middle age isn’t too late to get moving and improve your future health. But don’t wait too long. 

Putting it off until well into the 60s could bring exercise benefits, but research has found the reversal of heart damage won’t happen.
“If that aging process goes unchecked, you’re unlikely to change the structure of the heart and blood vessels,” said Dr. Benjamin Levine, a sports cardiologist. He’s director of the Institute of Exercise and Environmental Medicine, a collaboration of UT Southwestern Medical Center and Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital Dallas.

study(link opens in new window) by Levine’s team published in the journal Circulation in January 2018 sought to find the “sweet spot” in middle age for restoring the elasticity of the heart through exercise. Study participants were in their early 50s on average.

Heart stiffness, a potential precursor to heart failure, decreased for those who engaged in two years of the right kind and right amount of exercise.

Think of the difference between an old, stiff rubber band that’s been sitting in a junk drawer and a new rubber band pulled from a fresh pack, Levine said. The new one is more flexible.

“You stretch them, and they snap back,” he said. “That’s true for the heart and blood vessels as well.”

Participants who took part in a training program of high- and moderate-intensity exercise four to five times per week showed improvement in heart elasticity and in how their bodies used oxygen. 

Levine said exercise each week should break down into these segments:

  • One high-intensity workout, such as an aerobic interval workout that boosts the heart rate for four minutes at a time in several spurts during the session. 

  • An hour-long moderate-intensity workout doing something you find fun, such as tennis, biking, walking or Zumba.

  • Two or three more moderate workouts per week that might make you sweat, but still allows you to talk with someone. 

  • A strength training session.

Getting physically active is one of Life’s Simple 7, measures and actions identified by the American Heart Association as having the most impact on heart health. The others are eating healthy, managing blood pressure, controlling cholesterol, reducing blood sugar, losing weight and quitting smoking.

A Chicago-based study in 2017 using several Life’s Simple 7 metrics found that middle-age people with no major heart disease risk factors lived longer and had more years without chronic illnesses. They also had lower health care costs later in life.

Overall costs of cardiovascular disease in the United States were $555 billion in 2016. By 2035, that number is expected to grow to $1.1 trillion. Heart failure costs alone are more than $30 billion each year nationally.

Heart disease prevention and living a healthier life can be exercise motivators in their own right. Unfortunately, many people “just get overwhelmed by life” by middle age, Levine said.

To make physical activity a priority, he advises making exercise part of your daily routine, like getting dressed or brushing your teeth.

“Exercise needs to be part of your personal hygiene. It’s not something that you just add on,” he said.
Walking is an easy, inexpensive and safe way to start an exercise plan in middle age. Cross-training, which avoids performing the same movements day in and day out, can help guard against repetitive stress injuries in joints, Levine said.

There also are outside sources of support, including employee incentive programs that encourage workers to maintain good health like a discounted gym membership. Medicare offers a SilverSneakers(link opens in new window) program that provides free access to gyms and fitness classes.

The key is getting in the exercise habit, especially by late middle age.

“It’s critical to your health,” Levine said. “It can change the structure of your heart and blood vessels. That’s a really powerful tool.”

From Maesk Counseling in Fort Lauderdale - Depression and Exercise

A great article from the NY Times on the connection between exercise and relief from depression:

How Exercise Might Keep Depression at Bay


Exercise may be an effective treatment for depression and might even help prevent us from becoming depressed in the first place, according to three timely new studies. The studies pool outcomes from past research involving more than a million men and women and, taken together, strongly suggest that regular exercise alters our bodies and brains in ways that make us resistant to despair.

Scientists have long questioned whether and how physical activity affects mental health. While we know that exercise alters the body, how physical activity affects moods and emotions is less well understood.

Past studies have sometimes muddied rather than clarified the body and mind connections. Some randomized controlled trials have found that exercise programs, often involving walking, ease symptoms in people with major depression.

But many of these studies have been relatively small in scale or had other scientific deficiencies. A major 2013 review of studies related to exercise and depression concluded that, based on the evidence then available, it was impossible to say whether exercise improved the condition. Other past reviews similarly have questioned whether the evidence was strong enough to say that exercise could stave off depression.

A group of global public-health researchers, however, suspected that newer studies and a more rigorous review of the statistical evidence might bolster the case for exercise as a treatment of and block against depression.

So for the new analyses, they first gathered all of the most recent and best-designed studies about depression and exercise.

Then, for perhaps the most innovative of the new studies, which was published last month in Preventive Medicine, they focused on whether exercise could help to prevent someone from developing depression.

The scientists knew that many past studies of that topic had relied on people providing reports about how much they had exercised. We human beings tend to be notoriously unreliable in our memories of past workouts, though.

So the researchers decided to use only past studies that had objectively measured participants’ aerobic fitness, which will rise or fall depending on whether and how much someone exercises. Participants’ mental health also had to have been determined with standard testing at the start and finish of the studies, and the follow-up time needed to have been at least a year and preferably longer.

Ultimately, the researchers found several large-scale past studies that met their criteria. Together, they contained data on more than 1,140,000 adult men and women.

Among these million-plus people, the links between fitness and mental health turned out to be considerable. When the researchers divided the group into thirds, based on how aerobically fit they were, those men and women with the lowest fitness were about 75 percent more likely to have been given diagnoses of depression than the people with the greatest fitness. The men and women in the middle third were almost 25 percent more likely to develop depression than those who were the most fit.

In a separate study (some of the scientists were involved in each of the reviews), researchers looked at whether exercise might be useful as a treatment for depression. In that analysis, which was published in June in the Journal of Psychiatric Research, they pooled data from 25 past studies in which people with clinically diagnosed depression began some type of exercise program. Each study had to include a control group that did not exercise and be otherwise methodologically sophisticated.

The pooled results persuasively showed that exercise, especially if it is moderately strenuous, such as brisk walking or jogging, and supervised, so that people complete the entire program, has a “large and significant effect” against depression, the authors wrote. People’s mental health tended to demonstrably improve if they were physically active.

The final review offers some hints about why. Published in February in Neuroscience and Biobehavioral Reviews, it took on the difficult issue of what happens within our bodies during and after exercise that might affect and improve our moods. The researchers analyzed 20 past studies in which scientists had obtained blood samples from people with major depression before and after they had exercised. The samples on the whole indicated that exercise significantly reduced various markers of inflammation and increased levels of a number of different hormones and other biochemicals that are thought to contribute to brain health.

But the researchers also caution that most of the physiological studies they reviewed were too small and short-term to allow for firm conclusions about how exercise might change the brain to help fight off gloom.

Still, the three reviews together make a sturdy case for exercise as a means to bolster mental as well as physical health, said Felipe Barreto Schuch, an exercise scientist at the Centro Universitário La Salle in Canoas, Brazil, who, with Brendon Stubbs, a professor at King’s College in London, was a primary author on all of the reviews.

Many more experiments are still needed to determine the ideal amounts and types of exercise that might help both to prevent and treat depression, Dr. Schuch said.

But he encouraged anyone feeling overwhelmed by recent events, or just by life, to go for a run or a bike ride. “The main message” of his and his colleagues’ reviews, he said, “is that people need to be active to improve their mental health.”

From Maesk Counseling in Fort Lauderdale - Exercise and Mental Health

This time of year in South Florida, many people find themselves a little blue, or even outright depressed.  From shorter days to the memories of holiday seasons past, it can be a tough time for many.  One solution:  workout!  This is a great article on the value of exercise during the holidays, written by fitness trainer Michael Shaw:

"Typically this time of year I tend to write about all the good things about the holidays and all the positive things we can all do with our families. I stand by all the advice I’ve given, but this year I want to discuss the elephant in the room: Holiday Depression. As much as many of us would like to shrug it off, the truth is that depression this time of year is very real.

There can be any number of triggers that bring it on: stress in spending money you don’t have; missing relatives who are no longer with us; spending time with people you don’t want to see; feeling hopeless; or a combination of these things. Folks who are suffering from clinical depression may feel an exacerbation of anxiety and sadness from a pre-existing condition, but others go through this illness during holiday time (Thanksgiving to New Year’s). Pictured with this article is Steven, one of the fitness models I manage, representing the frustration and sadness that holiday depression can bring on.

You all know my feelings about the importance of exercise and the role it can take in our mental and physical well-being. In the case of holiday sadness, combining the mental with the physical can make a huge difference. For example, in the morning take deep breaths and focus on either clearing your mind or on a memory that’s bound to make you smile. Taking deep breaths relieves stress and triggers relaxation.

The next thing is utilizing the outdoors. Taking a walk during the morning or the day will provide sunlight and cool air, the combination of which increases endorphins, allowing us to feel better and bring us a little happiness. Jogging or running will additionally help by increasing the heart rate, burning calories, and relieving additional stress.

Another important thing is doing exercises that require us to use our brain. For instance, doing multiple exercises in a circuit like squat and press, kettlebell swings, and barbell presses requires our brains to stay aware and in the moment. The act of using our brains can relieve stress and give us purpose. In context, if we compare doing exercises like those I mentioned to simply running on a treadmill, you can see how easily it would be for our minds to wander during the treadmill exercise, versus keeping our brains sharp during compound exercises.

Including active rest is also important. Active rest is typically light exercises that don’t directly involve specific muscle groups. In the general sense, vacuuming, cleaning the house, raking the lawn, doing construction around the house are all examples of active rest. In the holiday sense, this could be delivering meals to the homeless, spending the day walking and talking with someone who is all alone, or collecting canned goods for those in need.

Obtaining a sense of purpose and helping others are good ways to combat Holiday Depression. Another thing that can help is strength training. Doing light resistance training with dumbbells and body weight can improve our bodily strength as well as our mental strength.

Yoga is another exercise that helps depression.  Many of you know how I feel about Yoga. Its benefits can never be overstated. It protects the body from injury, increases flexibility and strength; and improves respiration, energy, and vitality. Yoga can also help with weight loss and keeping a good and balanced metabolism.

There really are a number of different ways for us to help ourselves and those we know who are suffering from holiday sadness. For anyone whose depression is more severe, assistance from your doctor, which may include taking specific prescriptions and working with a therapist or counselor, is the proper way to go. That doesn’t exclude exercise, as many doctors would still want you doing light to moderate exercise.

The holidays are a wonderful time of year. Imagine it without all the sales marketing, “It’s a Wonderful Life” type movies, and dozens of people you know talking about presents and shopping. Different right? Stripped down to just basics: being around people you love, sharing a meal, celebrating your religion in its purest sense, being happy to be alive and see a new year arrive, it can be beautiful. But the reality is that the trappings of what we know as the modern day holiday can be suffocating to a lot of people.

Having the courage to help ourselves or help someone else is probably one of the best spirits of the holidays that I love. In the words of Aristotle, “You will never do anything in this world without courage. It is the greatest quality of the mind next to honor.”

I know the mere act of doing this article will make a difference in someone’s life. I believe that. I wish you all a wonderful and joyous holiday."