Want to eat healthier but lacking motivation? Start being more active and you’ll find that picking healthier foods will get easier. A least that’s what participants found in a recent study, and there’s no reason to expect different results for you. Researchers took people who had a sedentary lifestyle and just asked them to workout a little. Without instructions the participants started to eat healthier just because they were more active.
“The process of becoming physically active can influence dietary behavior,” said Molly Bray, corresponding author of the paper and chair of the Nutritional Sciences department at UT Austin and a pediatrics faculty member at Dell Medical School. “One of the reasons that we need to promote exercise is for the healthy habits it can create in other areas. That combination is very powerful.”
“Many people in the study didn’t know they had this active, healthy person inside them,” Bray said. “Some of them thought their size was inevitable. For many of these young people, they are choosing what to eat and when to exercise for the first time in their lives.”
Long commutes feel like a slog, but there are benefits to sitting on a train and staring out the window everyday. Londoners have some of the longest commutes in Europe which has led to some neat research into the benefits of these long and regular journeys. On the way to and from work people are able to contemplate their work-life and have a clear separation between work and home. Another, more obvious, benefit is that people who take public transit to work are healthier than those who drive.
To find out more, Richard Patterson at Imperial College London analysed detailed data from the English National Travel Survey, allowing him to determine exactly how much exercise the average commuter gleans from their daily journey. He found that roughly a third of public transport commuters met the government’s recommendations of 30-minutes exercise a day, through their commute alone.
Patterson points out that governments could consider these benefits when they decide their funding for transport networks, since encouraging people to give up their cars and take a train or bus could end up having a real effect on public health. In the UK, for instance, he calculates that a 10% increase in the use of public transport could result in 1.2 million more people reaching the recommended levels of physical activity. “Some decisions, which may not seem to have much to do with health, can have these knock-on effects for people’s wellbeing,” he says.
Any physical movement is good for you and the evidence keeps piling up. A meta-analysis of the relationship between resistance exercise training (RET) and depression concludes that lifting weights does indeed help your mental health. Because studies usually look at only aspect of mental health we need more research looking across studies to provide a solid foundation and that’s what we’re seeing here.
One thing I realized when going to the gym is that it took weeks to get that positive feeling from working out. Don’t expect instance levity in your mood or skills. There’s no reason to start at the extreme by lifting way more than you can. Start with lighter weights and slowly work your way up to whatever you like.
After reviewing the literature, Gordon and team found that regardless of age, sex, or health status, RET is “associated with a significant reduction in depressive symptoms.” The largest gains were found in adults with elevated symptoms, which gave the researchers hope that RET “may be particularly helpful for reducing depression symptoms in people with greater depressive symptoms.” They also found that supervised workout sessions resulted in larger gains than in unsupervised sessions.
As Gordon says, it’s impossible to blind people for this sort of research—you know who is lifting weights and who is not. As with most studies, the placebo effect could be at work. But given all we know about the benefits of exercise, this is a placebo with few side effects (overexertion and muscle strains being the most prominent). The benefits outweigh any potential risk.
You’ve been breathing your entire life and some of us can improve our techniques despite years of practice. Go ahead and think about your breathing right now. Are you breathing using your thoracic diaphragm?
If you’ve attend a yoga class then you might be familiar with the technique of breathing in through your nose and out through your mouth using your belly. It turns out that breathing that way is really good for you. It relaxes your mind, lowers your blood pressure, and it’s all thanks to the stimulus of the vagus nerve. Check your breath before you wreck yourself.
When it comes to effective vagal maneuvers, any type of deep, slow diaphragmatic breathing—during which you visualize filling up the lower part of your lungs just above your belly button like a balloon…and then exhaling slowly—is going to stimulate your vagus nerve, activate your parasympathetic nervous system, and improve your HRV.
Some people make time every day to practice diaphragmatic breathing as part of a yoga or mindfulness-meditation routine. Others only take a really deep breath anytime they catch themselves feeling “panicky,” need to have grace under pressure, or want to relieve some frustration. All of these applications of diaphragmatic breathing can reap huge benefits.
You don’t have to go to a gym to live a healthy lifestyle, you can work out while you vacuum. Recent research has concluded that even a mild amount of effort can improve one’s health and add years to one’s life. All you need as a minimum is 2.5 hours a week of being active. Being active can include chores around your house, going for a walk, or anything that gets your blood pumping from exertion. Obviously, gyms and working out more than 2.5 hours a week can greatly improve your health more than just vacuuming.
“I would dispel the notion of having to put out money to be active,” said Dr. Scott Lear, the study lead author and a professor at Simon Fraser University’s Faculty of Health Sciences in Canada, in an email. “Our findings indicate that nonrecreational activity — work, housework, active transportation — is just as beneficial in reducing the risk for premature death and heart disease.”
So, yes, even vacuuming your house or walking on your lunch hour for a solid 30 minutes can help avert an early death and chronic disease.