This summer, we might break a recent high in Americans getting out and exercising...
Survey researchers at polling giant Gallup have noted a seasonal trend in exercise – more Americans say they work out in the summer than in the winter.
Last June, that number hit a high of 55.5%.
This year, some 54.5% of Americans say they spend 30 minutes exercising, three times a week. As you can see in the following chart, we've still got a few months to go before the typical June high...
This is great news for Americans' health...
We all know that exercise is crucial for taking care of your health. Everything from burning calories to strengthening muscles and elevating positive moods comes from simple exercise.
Often, people ask me what the best exercises are, especially people just starting out.
So if you want to join your fellow Americans... and help the nation break its recent record... here are my top three exercises that just about anyone can do...
1) Walking. Walking is great exercise. It's easier on your joints but still provides many of the same benefits as jogging or running.
We know that walking after a meal helps fight spikes in blood sugar, known as postprandial hyperglycemia.
This is particularly a problem for folks with diabetes. Hyperglycemia means your body isn't breaking down sugars that you can use for energy. Left untreated, it can damage your eyes, kidneys, and nerves, and can lead to cardiovascular problems.
And researchers have recently found that walking after a meal helps prevent developing diabetes, too.
Exercise directly lowers your blood sugar by bypassing insulin... When you work your muscles, they contract and allow your muscle cells to absorb glucose without the help of insulin. Once they have the glucose, muscle cells break it down to use it for energy.
Two long-term studies from the Nurses' Health Study and the Health Professionals Follow-Up Study followed a total of 73,000 people for eight years and 14 years, respectively. Researchers found that brisk walking for 30 minutes a week cuts your risk of developing type 2 diabetes by 30%.
Do what I do and go for a walk after your meal. To get the most benefit, follow the 20-20 rule – wait for 20 minutes after eating and then walk for 20 minutes. You'll be surprised by how energized you feel.
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2) Yoga. People have practiced its many forms for centuries. Even though it's simple, it protects your heart just as well as aerobics.
Yoga reduces stress...
Stress takes a big toll on cells, especially on the protective caps on the ends of your DNA called telomeres. These caps wear down each time your cells divide, so they disappear as you age. When the telomeres are gone, the cell stops dividing and dies. Stress makes telomeres shrink faster than normal, which leads to a host of age-related diseases. As it turns out, yoga is a great way to protect your telomeres.
Yoga also protects your heart...
Studies have shown that yoga reduces blood pressure and heart rate equal to the decreases caused by aerobic exercise. And another study showed that yoga cuts your risk for atrial fibrillation. This condition is an irregular heartbeat that can lead to blood clots in the heart, and strokes.
Yoga strengthens the brain...
As we age, our brains lose gray matter – where the clusters of nerve cells live. It's responsible for much of our brain's functions, including muscle control, memory, vision, hearing, emotions, and decision-making.
Research published in Frontiers in Human Neuroscience showed that people who practiced yoga saw significant increases in gray matter. In fact, the more hours a week someone did yoga, the greater the amount of gray matter.
Many gyms and yoga studios offer senior-focused practices as well. Instructors design these programs for folks over the age of 50 who may have trouble holding poses for too long or have joint or back problems.
Do what I do: Search for local yoga classes right here, and don't forget to check your local gyms and senior centers as well.
3) High-intensity interval training (HIIT). Just like the name suggests, HIIT is a workout strategy where you mix short, intense bursts of effort with longer recovery periods. It's intense, but it's considered safe for anyone, even older folks and people just getting started with regular exercise.
Studies show HIIT is more efficient than regular aerobic exercise. It improves your body's ability to burn fat and calories. A 12- to 15-minute HIIT workout is equivalent to an hour of steady aerobic exercise.
HIIT provides many great health benefits. It can:
- Improve cardiovascular health (including lowering blood pressure),
- Build muscle tissue,
- Increase metabolism (which helps generate body heat),
- Increase gastrointestinal transit speed (which reduces colon cancer risk),
- Ease arthritis,
- Improve bone mineral density,
- And reduce lower back pain.
The most studied HIIT regimen is something called the "Wingate"...
In the Wingate, the participant exercises at an "all out" level of exertion for 30 seconds, then rests for about four minutes. This cycle repeats four to six times, so that the total exertion time is only two to three minutes. Participants complete this workout three times a week – that's just nine minutes a week of intense exercise.
And according to additional research, reducing the intensity still provides benefits for people with somewhat limited mobility. The key is to start with easier exercises and work your way up. And don't overdo it... An Ironman athlete we spoke with (who uses HIIT for his training) suggested doing HIIT once or twice a week.
We hope you include regular exercise as part of your healthy lifestyle. If you're looking to add something new to your training, try one of these exercises today and let us know how it goes.
What We're Reading...
- Some more great yoga poses for older folks.
- How to use HIIT in your walking.
- Something different: Another study proving that too many antibiotics are unnecessary.