woman weightlifting

Exercisers Have More Youthful Brains

If Amanda spends 20 minutes on the stationary bike, jogs half a mile, and does 10 minutes of yoga poses, how long will it take her to burn 60 percent of the cheesecake she ate last night? Don’t know? Maybe if you started exercising, you would! According to studies, people who exercise not only have larger muscles in their arms and legs, they have them in their heads, too. Healthy body, healthy mind? Read on to find out.

Studies show that people who exercise have larger brain volume and a greater amount of intact white matter ( the filler that conducts nerve impulses and interconnects the brain) than those who don’t. In a study published in the journal PLoS ONE, scientist looked at brain activity measuring brain activity at rest and changes in blood oxygen levels with MRIs and evaluated white matter fibers.

White Matter
According to the study, exercise stimulates the brain, and that stimulation can cause people to perform better on cognitive tasks. According to Agnieszka Burzynska, the University of Illinois postdoctoral researcher who led the study, “We found that spontaneous brain activity showed more moment to moment fluctuations in the more active adults.” She adds, “In a previous study, we showed that in some of the same regions of the brain, those people who have a higher brain variability also performed better on complex cognitive tasks, especially intelligence tasks and memory.” The study also found that the white matter in more active people had a more youthful structure.

Burzynska expresses hopefulness in the usefulness and application of such studies in the future. “We want to know how the brain relates to the body, and how physical health influences mental and brain health in aging. Here, instead of a structural measure, we are taking a functional measure of brain health. And we are finding that tracking changes in blood oxygenation levels over time is useful for predicting cognitive functioning and physical health in aging.”

Best Exercises for Brain Health
Yet another study, published in the Journal of Physiology, aimed to find out which exercises increased brain volume most effectively. Researchers in Finland gathered a group of rats injected with a substance to mark the growth of new brain cells and set them on a variety of workouts. After seven weeks, the results came in.

senior couple jogging

Jogging
Rats who’d jogged on wheels showed the largest improvement in neurogenesis. Their brain tissue was full of new neurons, and the greater the distance the runner jogged, the greater the number of cells produced.

HIIT
For the rats perfuming high-intensity interval training, the results were less promising. Although they showed higher amounts of new neurons than sedentary animals, the results were far less impressive than those of the runners.

Weight Training
Although weight training rats were physically stronger at the end of the experiment, their brains showed no such improvement. Their brain tissue was identical to the animals that had not exercised at all.

Of course, animals are not humans, and weight training and HIIT may lead to changes elsewhere in the brain, implications of these studies may carry some weight. Miriam Nokia, a research fellow who led the study speculates that “sustained aerobic activity might be most beneficial for brain health also in humans.”

What do you think? Is aerobics the key to a fitter and smarter population? Let us know how you weigh in on the findings.

Woman using barbells

Use Muscle, Don't Lose It

We’ve all seen it. The celebrity weight transformations. A celebrity gets a role and that calls for an actor with a muscular physique and all of a sudden they’ve transformed into the “Incredible Hulk,” seemingly overnight, adding masses of muscle to their formerly moderate frames, only to slim down just as quickly to normal or even emaciated proportions depending on their next role. Of course they will openly discuss how they “bulked up” or “slimmed down” with tales of excessive carb, consumption and exhausting workouts or stories of food deprivation worthy of a homeless orphan.

However, while we are used to the seemingly impossible becoming commonplace in Hollywood, we hope for a more stable body weight for ourselves. When we build muscle, we generally hope to maintain it, but we need to use it to make sure we don’t lose it.

The Bad News
If you don’t start exercising now, your muscles will shrink by the time your are seventy. Two recent studies found that the atrophy of muscles previously though to be a normal part of aging is not inevitable.

One study used MRI snapshots to compare muscle mass in the mid thighs of athletes aged 40 to 81. Images revealed not much difference between the younger and older athletes and found very little decrease in mid thing muscles with age. In contrast, in healthy but sedentary 70 year old, the results were very different, showing a significant decrease in muscle mass.

Another study looked at the “motor units” of the leg muscles. Motor units are the basic units of the muscles, each of which is connected to a single neuron. It is believed the part of the general weakening that occurs with age is attributed to the atrophy of the motor units. The study revealed a close similarity in the number of motor units of 60 and 20 year old runners. However, this did not apply to the arm muscles, with older runners and non runners alike experiencing similar decline in the motor units of the arms.

Woman with prominent biceps

The Good News
The loss of muscle mass, also known as sarcopenia, can be managed with exercise. Exercise stimulates the release of hormones crucial to healthy muscle mass, such as the growth hormone, crucial to the mechano growth factor. Exercise can also prevent the loss of essential bone and muscle associated with aging.

Although aerobic exercise is great for the cardiovascular system and effective in keeping down fat levels, it is only mildly helpful in maintaining the lean body mass you already have. When it comes to the preserving and increasing lean mass, resistance training is the way to go. The Federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advises strength training, such as using weights, machines, bands, and other devices to promote mobility, improve fitness, and increase bone density.

The Big Four For Muscle Building
Because your body is made primarily of “push and pull” muscles, it is important to focus on exercises that focus on those movements. The squat is a great whole body “push” exercise and should be coupled with a whole body “push-pull” like the deadlift, which incorporates core and lower body muscles. For the upper body, the bench press and barbell row are the two main lifts to incorporate into your strength training routine. Doing these will let you minimize finishing exercises for the abs and calves.

How are you using your muscles? Let us know! You’re looking great!

Woman elliptical

Kickstart Your Heart With These Cardio Staples

There is such a variety of exercise tapes available today, it is sometimes difficult to determine which ones are meant to be taken seriously. Since Joanna Rohrback created a sensation with her much spoofed “Prancercise” video, the health conscious public has been confused by an assortment of bizarre aerobic tapes ranging from the “Dixie Carter Country Hiphop Workout” to the “Japanese Poodle Workout” to the “Exorcise” video. With all this insanity, it is sometimes hard to define what is meant by cardiovascular exercise.

Cardiovascular exercises are so called because they improve the function of the heart, build muscle mass, and enhance consumption and transportation of oxygen. They also strengthen bones, increase joint support and improve cholesterol. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends a weekly exercise routine consisting of 2 and a half hours of moderate cardiovascular activity or 75 minutes of more vigorous cardio per week. Here are some tried and true examples of cardiovascular staples to help kickstart your health.

In the Gym
The elliptical trainer, which features footpads that require a pedaling motion to operate. is one of the most comprehensive pieces of gym equipment for cardiovascular activity. This, along with the stairclimber and the treadmill, provide their users with opportunities to build endurance and lung capacity while toning the lower body and burning fat.
If instructed gym classes are more your speed, spinning, exercise dancing, and water aerobics are all challenging options. Looking for something more traditional? Step aerobics are an age old way to work the lower body, while jumping rope provides for full body workout, sharpening coordination and boosting lateral movement.

Couple running

Walking and Running
You can burn 180 calories by speed walking at moderate intensity for 30 minutes, while running can double that number. Although body weight can affect the number of calories burned while running, speed has little to do with cardiovascular benefits. Therefore, you can enjoy perks of lower blood pressure, decreased risk of heart attack, and increased lung capacity while still working at a relatively low intensity. However, more vigorous activity has the added benefits of greater calorie melts and metabolism boosts which can last for days after working out.

Sports
If you enjoy competitive sports, racquetball is considered the most heart healthy sport and can burn more than 400 calories in the course of a vigorous 30 minute game. Rowing, skiing and climbing follow hot on its heels, turning in similar figures. Swimming weighs in at a whopping 500 calorie burn in thirty minutes and is known to stimulate circulation, increase endurance and flexibility, and provide stress relief, while strengthening the heart.

Indoor and Outdoor Activities
Biking can be done outdoors or from the comfort of your home and can burn up to 500 calories in a period of 30 minutes. A hilly terrain can increase resistance outdoors for an even greater calorie burn and an increased test of stamina, while stationary bikes include manual intensity adjustments. Equipment free cardio options include unweighted squad, jumping jacks, lunges and squat jumps.

How do you like to kickstart your workout? Let us know how you get your 2 1/2 hours in. We love to hear it!

Woman at the gym

Stay Safe At The Gym

If you are like most children, you have grown up being taught that sharing is a beautiful thing. We share our toys, we share our food, we share our houses. However, as time has gone on and science has gotten more advanced, we have learned that with sharing comes a not so pretty consequence. It turns out that when we share our things, we share our germs as well. Sure, Suzy was nice enough to give Jimmy her extra Twinkie, but she gave it to him with her bare hands. Did Suzy wash her hands after she went to the bathroom?

As we grow up, we are still expected to share, only our toys have gotten a little more adult. Our jungle gyms have been replaced by gym equipment, but, unfortunately, the threat of germs is just as real. According to a December 2014 study found in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 25 different types of bacteria were found on handrails, toilet handles and equipment at four gyms in Memphis. The most common category of bacteria found were Staphylococcus or staph, a species known to be a cause of skin infection.

Why are Gyms a Breeding Ground for Skin infection?
Although it is easy to see how a virus may spread from one treadmill to another, it may be more difficult to imagine how skin infections are transferred. Fungi, bacteria and viruses that lead to skin infections thrive in warm, moist areas. Therefore, the sweat left on towels and exercise equipment provides the ideal tropical location for bacteria. The germs are also quite comfortable in a nice warm shower, sauna, or swimming pool deck. Not only that, but because staph infections are resistant to a variety of antibiotics, they can live on mats exercise machines and locker room benches for days.

Amber Marie Vasquez, MD and spokesperson for the CDC says, ” Skin infections…are most commonly reported in athletes engaged in sports that involve skin to skin contact, such as football or wrestling, but transmission can also occur…before and after participation-in locker rooms, for example. Open wounds, poor hygiene, and the sharing of towels and equipment all increase your risk.”

Sizing Up a Gym for Cleanliness
If you are checking out a new gym, it may be a good idea to check with the management about the cleaning routine. Make sure that the locker rooms and gyms are cleaned at least once a day with disinfectants and detergents registered by the EPA. Make sure disinfectant sprays and wipes are easily accessible and that equipment is well maintained with no damaged surfaces that make equipment more difficult to clean. “Also, bathrooms and locker rooms should be stocked with liquid soap or alcohol based hand sanitizer,” says Vasquez.

Lowering Your Risk

  • Protect Your Skin. Make sure cuts and scrapes are kept clean and covered with a bandage. Keep a towel or item of clothing between exercise equipment and your skin and always wear flip flops or jellies in the shower.
  • BYO Exercise Mat. Since yoga and gym mats may not be cleaned between classes, it is safest to bring your own.
  • Partake in Good Hygiene. Always wash your hands before and after using equipment and playing sports. Although a wash in good old soap and water is your best bet, the CDC advises utilizing a sanitizer that has an alcohol content of at least 60% if soap is not available. Disinfect fitness equipment with sprays and wipes before and after use and shower after you exercise, or use a swimming pool or hot tub.
  • Wash Your Stuff. Vasquez says, “Evidence shows that the numbers of skin bacteria build up each time we wear a piece of clothes without washing it.” Sweaty clothes, used towels and swimsuits should be stashed in a plastic bag separate from the rest of your stuff and washed after each use. Since heat kills bacteria, wash and dry items at the warmest temperature level possible.
  • Be Stingy. It all comes back to no sharing, especially when it comes to items that touch you, like razors.

So the next time you forget your towel and no one is eager to lend you one, don’t take it personally! Let us know about your experiences sharing (or not sharing) at the gym. We love to hear from you!

Woman relaxing in a suana

The Health Benefits of Hot and Dry Heat

You have just finished working out at the gym and you feel like crawling home.  It must have been somewhere between the 50th and 51st set of squats when your muscles just gave out.  Your legs feel like jello.    You decide that some relief is definitely in order if you have any chance of getting to your car and driving home without  requiring medical attention.  You spot the sauna. “This is just the thing,” you think.  I will sit in here, let my muscles relax  a little and I will feel like a new person!” Then you spot the steam room.  Could this be a better option?  You try and think.  What have you heard about them?  You can’t remember which one is which and think that in your condition it may just be a matter of which one is closer.  Well, just so you are prepared for when this happens to you, here’s the breakdown.

The basic difference between saunas and steam baths is that steam baths use moist heat, while saunas offer dry heat.  Both are hot baths which stimulate blood flow, easing pain and promoting healthy metabolism.

The Heat Factor
Saunas are a good deal hotter than steam rooms with the set temperature at somewhere between 160 and 200 degrees Fahrenheit, and a humidity level between 5 and 30%  In other words, it’s a dry heat.  Steam rooms measure somewhere between 110 and 120 degrees but the 100% humidity will make it feel much higher.  Heat rises in both saunas and steam rooms, so the higher you sit, the hotter you will be. Wet and dry heat have a sedative effect which can provide relaxation to those suffering emotional disorder and pain relief to those suffering from a muscular injury.

The Bare Bones
Have you ever gotten on a slide in the hot weather as a child? Perhaps, then you understand why saunas are built of wood and not metal.  In addition, wood absorbs moisture, keeping surfaces cooler and pulling humidity from the air.  In steam rooms, high humidity would cause wood to deteriorate and are therefore made of tile or plastic.  They feature sloped ceilings which allow the water to run down the wall rather than drip on your head.

The Relaxation Factor
Both steam rooms and sauna reduce muscle tension and promote relaxation. They improve circulation and cause occupants to perspire, opening the pores and cleansing the skin,  The humidity of the steam rooms may be more comfortable for people suffering from allergies and congestion, whereas those with conditions that may be aggravated by humidity, like arthritis, may opt for the sauna.

The Expectoration Factor
One advantage that a steam room may have over a sauna is the expectorant effect.  Wet heat opens the sinuses throat and lungs and can loosen and clear the mucus in your nose, chest, and throat.  However, it can also aggravate asthma, which would make a sauna a better choice for asthmatics.

The Myth
You may have heard that both of these baths may remove toxins from the body and help you lose weight.  There is no evidence to support that either removes any toxic chemicals from your body and any weight loss will be temporary, resulting from water weight lost from sweating, so hanging out in the sauna or steam room will not make you svelte, which is why you still have the gym.

So which way do you stagger?  To the dry or to the wet?  The choice is yours, just pick one soon!

Couple exercising in the park,.

Benefits of Outdoor Activity

The weather is warming up and the sun is shining brightly on lawns that are once again green and flowers that are in bloom. Unfortunately, most of us aren’t using this weather to our advantage. Many Americans are not participating in regular exercise and some people use the excuse that they aren’t comfortable at an indoor gym. Worry no more because Resveralife found out that taking the exercises outdoors can provide benefits that you just can’t get from an indoor gym.

Works Both Mind and Body
You know that exercise benefits your body and if you keep with a routine you are able to see physical proof that your hard work is paying off. However, you may be unaware of all of the added perks exercising outdoors provides to your mental health. A study published by the National Center for Biotechnology suggests that individuals who run outdoors expend more energy than those using a treadmill indoors. The reason for this is that when you run outdoors, you face elements that a treadmill cannot give you such as resistance from a strong wind. Exercising outdoors gives you more challenges and is more strenuous than workouts at your indoor gym and the more energy you exert, the more calories you burn, the easier it is to get in shape.

As mentioned above, the results of exercise are not limited to your outward appearance. One of the greatest outdoor workout extra is the effect it has on your mental health. Peninsula College of Medicine and Dentistry conducted a study using 800 participants. The results were incredibly positive. Those that exercised outdoors reported increased vitality and memory and a decreased number of negative feelings. Outdoor exercise was proved to lower feelings of anger, depression and tension while a traditional indoor workout session did not result in the same benefits. Additionally, a study in Quebec, Canada by Isabelle Dione suggests that when people exercise outdoors, they are more likely to work out for a longer period of time than those exercising indoors. The constant change of scenery and the beauty of nature eliminate the monotony of staring at your screen or display on the treadmill.

Added Benefits of Sunshine
Calcium is a necessary nutrient to build, and maintain, strong bones. Vitamin D3 is an important factor for both bone health and metabolic function and you can get plenty of D3 by taking your exercises outdoors as sunshine is great provider of vitamin D3. However, there are more benefits to receiving sunlight than getting vitamins and a possible tan. Exposure to sunlight during the day helps your body sleep better at night, increase endorphins and strengthen your immune functions.

Woman exercising in the gym.

Better Than Your Gym
A gym membership is a great thing to have during the winter when it is too cold to take your exercise outside. But once the weather warms up, working out in the great outdoors saves you money. If possible, invest in a six month gym membership and exercise outdoors whenever you have the opportunity. The only costs you incur from exercise when heading outdoors are items that  are most likely already in your home, such as a pair of well-fitting shoes, exercise gear that can handle outdoor weather, and sunscreen. You can also use your favorite mp3 player and playlist to get you more motivated outdoors.

In addition to getting your cardio in outdoors, you can also practice exercises designed to gain strength and build muscle. A park bench is a wonderful and useful item for an outdoor workout. Use it for push-ups, mountain climbers and tricep dips. A little bit of creativity with your outdoor workout not only keeps you challenged, but it provides you with the bonus of increased health from being outside. Lace up your shoes and slather on some sunscreen and enjoy a healthier, stronger way of living.

Woman on stationary bike with a glass of red wine

Resveralife Asks: Can Wine Replace the Gym?

Some might consider wine to be a toxic irritant in the system, but recent reports seem to show that the ancients might have got it right once again by substituting water with wines in their diets. A number of studies now state that this grape based intoxicant might have antioxidant qualities to offer to the human body. This simply makes us wonder whether wine can help us feel healthier or not and how much of wine should we be drinking. After all, drinking more wine is what the entire French Paradox is about, isn’t it?

 

Wine was considered to be a staple in ancient times because water was more or less contaminated with pathogens and deadly diseases. Moreover, in many places water ended up becoming a luxury, whereas wine could be found everywhere. Such was its popularity, that it managed to linger on for centuries when countless other alcohols came and went. And as many wine lovers would love to swear by, they still seem younger than many of their non-drinking buddies.

 

In a recent study that was conducted to determine whether wine consumption had any benefits, researchers have discovered that red wine contains an active ingredient known as Resveratrol, an ingredient that is commonly found in nuts and red grapes. Resveratrol is considered to offer significant anti-aging benefits with regular use and it is also believed to be one of the most powerful antioxidants in the world. Numerous wine based studies also confirm that Resveratrol has a way of improving the cardiovascular health of our elderly, when used in the right doses.

 

In fact, another study also mentioned out that red wine could be effectively termed as a substitute to exercising because it helped to protect muscle loss and preserve muscle tone. However, despite these results, Resveratrol studies are still in their nascent stages and it is always best to drink wine in moderation.

 

What you can do is that you can alter your daily routines to accommodate some red wine and give your body with the wondrous benefits that Resveratrol has to offer. And No. Don’t be lazy. We don’t mean that skipping out on your daily exercise is ok. Here are a few things that you can do.

  • Maintain your daily exercise routine. Resveratrol might be helping you with muscle toning and preventing muscle loss, but exercising is about a lot more than maintaining your muscles. It also has a lot to do with keeping you healthy. What you can do is that you could wind down with a glass of wine. This helps you to look good as well as feel good.
  • Bring in the reds. Dessert wines might taste fantabulous, but they don’t offer you with any Resveratrol whatsoever. So, cut out on the tastes that a Chardonnay has to offer. Red wine is just as tasty and its extremely healthy too.
  • Always drink in moderation. Resveratrol might be beneficial for your body, but always drink wine in moderation. Wine also contains alcoholic content and sugar that can accumulate toxins and poisons in your body. Drinking too much of wine can also cause a lot of internal damage to your body. Remember, wine can act as a Resveratrol supplement, it cannot act as a replacement for healthy lifestyles.

 

To sum up, can wine replace the gym? Nope!