Exercise Could Help Ease SAD This Winter

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Darker mornings and longer evenings mean that a lot of us rarely catch much daylight during the week. According to YouGov, around 29 percent of the UK battle with debilitating SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder), while almost two thirds of us feel noticeably less happy during the winter months compared to the summer. The lack of sunlight throughout the colder months can affect your melatonin and serotonin levels, and leave you feeling tired, lethargic, anxious and depressed.  

Spring might feel like a long way away, but if you have suffered with symptoms of SAD previously there are a few tricks you can employ to help lift your mood. Earlier this month, a study highlighted how exercise can help alleviate depression and anxiety. Researchers at Massachusetts General Hospital looked over data from over 8000 people and concluded that regular exercise can help reduce depressive episodes.

“Our findings strongly suggest that, when it comes to depression, genes are not destiny and that being physically active has the potential to neutralize the added risk of future episodes in individuals who are genetically vulnerable,” says Karmel Choi, PhD, of MGH and the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, and lead author of the study. “On average, about 35 additional minutes of physical activity each day may help people to reduce their risk and protect against future depression episodes.”

This isn’t the first study to outline the benefits exercise can have on our mood. For years, experts have been championing that well-established idea that working out releases mood-boosting endorphins. What makes this study particularly interesting is that the researchers discovered that both high-intensity activities, such as aerobics and dances, and low-intensity forms, including yoga and stretching, can help reduce your chances of having a depressive episode. In fact, the researchers concluded that by adding four hours of exercise into your week can reduce it by 17 percent.

What does four hours of exercise look like? Well, it could be four hours of cardio in the gym, or a weekly 1.5 hour yoga class paired with 30 minutes of brisk walking five days a week. If that feels like too much of a commitment but SAD is something you’ve struggled with previously, Shabir has a couple of tricks to help, including two fast-acting supplements – read more, here.

Why Health Experts Want Us All To Start Running

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We are all well-versed in the benefits of exercising – even if most of us don’t workout nearly enough. There are endless studies highlighting why exercise is so good for us. Earlier this year, researchers at Columbia University discovered that a hormone (irisin) which is produced during exercise could help protect the neurons in our brain from Alzheimer’s, while scientists at the Queen Mary University of London found that working out can help prevent the breakdown of cartilage caused by osteoarthritis. 

This week, a study honed in on the importance of running. Researchers reviewed data from 14 studies and concluded that any amount of running can help lower your risk of death by 27%. Yes, whether you run once a day, once a week or just a couple of times a week, you will help improve your health. The researchers also highlighted that neither your speed nor your distance mattered either. Although they did conclude: ‘Increased rates of participation in running, regardless of its dose, would probably lead to substantial improvements in population health and longevity.’

This isn’t the first time running has been specifically highlighted by the science community. Last year, Brigham Young University found that running can help improve our brain health. “Exercise is a simple and cost-effective way to eliminate the negative impacts on memory of chronic stress,” the study lead, Jeff Edwards said at the time.

Fitness expert and celebrity trainer, Dalton Wong is an advocate of running: “Running is an excellent and low cost cardiovascular exercise that can be done anywhere. It can be suitable for all fitness levels,” says Wong. “Running outside is also an excellent way to connect with nature. Fresh air and vitamin D is always beneficial to the body.”

So, how can we improve our running game?

Invest in your trainers: To fully support your feet and avoid injury, it is worth investing in a decent pair of running shoes.

Check your gait: Plenty of sport shops offer gait analysis, which will correct any form issues and also help prevent injury. Several places offer video analysis, so you can see on the screen where you’re going wrong. 

Download a running app: If finding the motivation is where you seem to fall short and you don’t have the budget for a personal trainer, download an app. Nike’s Running Club app tracks your runs, offers in-app coaching, celebrates your achievements and allows your friends to tap in and offer encouragement. 

Embrace podcasts: Try listening to a podcast rather than music. Start with a 30 minute one (Joan and Jericha season 2 is equally as funny as the first if you enjoy satire) and build up to an hour long one (Off Menu with Ed Gamble and James Acaster or Adam Buxton’s interviews will keep you amused). 

Don’t forget your R&R: There’s nothing worse than enjoying a long, steady run only to wake up feeling sore and stiff two days later. Soaking in a bath of magnesium flakes or massaging Better You’s Magnesium Oil Original Spray into limbs post-run can help ease delayed onset muscle soreness. 

How Fast You Walk Is More Telling Than You Think

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Slow walkers commonly feature in round-ups of pet peeves, but those who move at a slower pace could have more to worry about than simply annoying the general population. According to new research, the speed at which we walk could reflect how quickly we are ageing. 

Researchers at Duke University in North Carolina assessed the gait measurement of just under 1000 people in New Zealand, who were born in 1970 and had had their pace of walking documented when they were three years old. The results showed that slower walkers had aged quicker than those who walked faster, particularly in terms of their brain, lungs, teeth and immune systems. If that wasn’t enough, the slower walkers also looked older.

“Doctors know that slow walkers in their seventies and eighties tend to die sooner than fast walkers of the same age,” said senior author Terrie E. Moffitt from Duke University. “But this study covered the period from the preschool years to midlife, and found that a slow walk is a problem sign decades before old age.”

Not all is lost though, as researchers believe that lifestyle choices would have played a role in the ageing process. For example, those who have chosen not to exercise are likely to have aged quicker and there are plenty of studies to back-up the argument that working out regularly can help keep you mentally and physically healthier. Just last week a study in the Canadian Journal of Cardiology highlighted that exercise can help those over 65 years who experience symptoms of depression.

What else can you do? Well, it goes without saying that eating a balanced diet and keeping your stress levels down are also essential to fending off premature ageing. Shabir also recommends keeping your antioxidant levels up to counteract the damage caused by free radicals. Astaxanthin is 6000 times more powerful than vitamin C and 500 times more powerful than green tea. Intrigued? Read Shabir’s full guide to the antioxidant, here.

Those who are open to more experimental methods for slowing down the ageing process might be interested in the ticking technique. Earlier this year, scientists at Leeds University discovered that ‘tickle’ therapy or ticking the ear with a small electrical current can help to rebalance the nervous system of 55 year olds. It might not be for everyone, but if you’re worried about your walking pace then a quick tickle might help in a small way to counterbalance…

How To Reduce A Bloated Tummy This Summer

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The swimsuit season is upon us. Which means most women’s thoughts are turning, at least a little, to how we look in cosies and bikinis. And you know what women have long told us they worry about most, in a swimsuit? Not cellulite ­– but a less-than-flat-tummy. So here’s what we’ve learned really works to help beat a bloated tummy, over our too-many-years-to-mention in the beauty and wellness world. Read More…

Why It’s Time Sit Less And Move More

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How much of the day do you think you spend sitting down? It might surprise you, but the majority of us spend at least nine hours on our bum every day. And before you blame your job, we’re just as guilty of swapping a brisk walk for a Netflix marathon at the weekend. Read More…

Is HIIPA The New HIIT That We Can All Embrace?

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Fitness experts and gyms have been highlighting the benefits of high intensity interval training (HIIT) for years now. Short, intense bursts of exercise have been lauded as the most efficient and effective way to get your fitness levels up and squeeze your workout into your weekly schedule. Why spend an hour on the treadmill if a 30 minute HIIT class gets the job done? Read More…