Exercise The Brain March 7, 2008

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Exercise is an important part of keeping yourself healthy. Changes in lifestyle are harder to make the older the person becomes. The best way to promote healthy lifestyles is for the whole family to become involved.

Establishing an exercise plan:

A daily exercise program can provide a way to share an activity with family and friends, while helping establish good heart-healthy habits. The following exercise guidelines for adolescents can help you and your child plan activities:

  • Activity at moderate intensity (equal to a brisk walk) for 30 minutes a day, five days a week or more.
  • Vigorous exercise for 20 minutes a day, three times a week or more. (Vigorous exercise is done at a pace that increases your heart rate to 70% or more of your maximum heart rate. Your maximum heart rate is the fastest your heart can beat at a maximum activity level. To find your target heart rate for exercising, use the target heart rate calculator from GoodHealth.com's online health encyclopedia.)

Children and teens should be active at least one hour a day. Activity should be of at least moderate intensity. Walking briskly is an example of a moderate activity.

Generally, fitness professionals recommend three types of fitness training: aerobic, muscular and flexibility. Core stabilization and balance (strengthening the abdomen, hips and lower back) can be included in the muscular category or pulled out as separate training. When creating an exercise program, make sure you address diet and nutrition to optimize healthy living.

Even low-to-moderate intensity activities for as little as 30 minutes a day can be beneficial. These activities may include the following:

  • pleasure walking
  • climbing stairs
  • dancing
  • home exercise

Regular, aerobic physical activity increases one's capacity for exercise and plays a role in prevention of heart diseases. Aerobic activities are continuous activities that cause the heart rate to increase and cause the breathing rate to increase. Aerobic exercise may also help to lower blood pressure. To prevent dehydration, make sure to drink fluids regularly during physical activity and drink several glasses of water or other fluid after the physical activity is completed. Examples of vigorous activities may include the following:

  • brisk walking
  • running
  • swimming
  • cycling
  • roller skating
  • jumping rope
  • playing on the playground
  • dancing
  • gymnastics
  • hiking
  • soccer
  • tag games

Its a no-brainer that exercising can tone the calves, flatten the belly and strengthen the heart, but can it go so far as to affect our heads, too? According to new research, the answer is yes.

Make You Smarter

Most of us agree that its a smart idea to work out, but going for a jog or playing a game of tennis can actually give you more of those light bulb moments to begin with. Links between students academic achievement and athletic performance have long been noted by educators, and older adults who keep themselves moving also tend to maintain a hold on mental acuity. Surveys and research studies involving mice have all but proven what many have suspected all along: by increasing blood flow to the part of the brain that creates new neurons, exercise in fact makes us sharper and fends off the cognitive decay that goes along with aging. A buff body paired with a keen mind? Sounds like an excellent reason to get off the couch.

Take The Place of Antidepressants

Have you ever felt invincible after a long bike ride or thoroughly light-hearted following a spinning class? Thats the work of endorphins, chemicals in the body that work as a natural tamer of tension, sadness and anxiety. Their effects are real, but whether or not they have the strength to stand up to serious depression is a complicated question. Studies have documented patients who, over a period of months, were able to squelch their depression by adopting an exercise routine rather than medication, but it hasnt worked for everyone. Kicking depression is an individual affair, but for anyone who disdains drugs more than the gym, check with your doc and then consider giving exercise a try.

Re-Train Your Brain

Learning to shoot a basket or knit a scarf are skills that require a little instruction before they can be mastered. Learning to treat yourself kindly and exhibit confidence are skills as well, and it turns out that exercise might be the perfect teacher. Self-efficacy, an important facet of the personality, refers to how powerful each of us feels about who we are and what we do. High self-efficacy is a good thing (it translates to goal-reaching and positive body image), but it doesnt come naturally to everyone. As it turns out, exercise builds self-efficacy, which in turn makes it easier to stick to a healthy lifestyle. Assume control of brain and body and start your own cycle of positive growth; anything less is a waste of potential.

The President's Challenge

What began as a national youth fitness test has grown up in a big way. Today, the President's Challenge takes staying active beyond the school gym, and into everyday life.

The President's Challenge expanded into a whole series of programs designed to help improve anyone's activity level whether you are young or old. It's about choosing to live healthier - and finding things you really like to do.

If you're active less than 30 minutes a day/5 days a week (or 60 minutes a day for youths under 18), the Active Lifestyle Program is for you. The Active Lifestyle program shows you how to make a commitment to staying active and how to stick to it. The program helps you set realistic goals to encourage fitness for a lifetime. The rules are simple. You can choose from all kinds of activities. A personal activity log will be provided to guide you every step of the way.

If you're already active and are looking for a challenge, then the Presidential Champions Program may be what you're looking for.

The President's Challenge starts on March 20, 2008 and is free, so register today.

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