9 Surprising Health Benefits of Exercise

In addition to helping you lose weight, here are 9 surprising health benefits of exercise.

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Yesterday, on New Year’s Day, millions of Americans resolved to begin exercising and lose weight in 2013. While exercise helps you burn calories and lose weight, it also has numerous other health benefits that will help you have a truly healthier, happier 2013.

Here are 9 surprising health benefits of exercise:

1. Sleep better. Regular exercise helps you sleep better, provided it’s not done within 2 to 3 hours of your bedtime. Exercise can also reduce and sometimes eliminate sleep apnea, a frustrating and potentially health-threatening sleep disorder that causes disruptions in breathing.

2. Reduce your risk for skin cancer. Studies show that regular exercise lowers your risk for skin cancer, including life-threatening melanoma.

3. Be happy. If you’ve heard of “runner’s high,” then you know that exercise makes people happy. That’s because exercise boosts mood-enhancing or feel-good endorphins.

4. Reduce heartburn. Studies show that regular exercise, especially less stressful aerobic types like swimming and walking, reduce the severity of acid reflux or heartburn. And reducing heartburn can also help you sleep better.

5. Improve your acne. Because regular exercise helps regulate blood sugar, it helps reduce inflammation which can improve acne. It also reduces the stress hormone, cortisol, which is an acne trigger.

6. Have more energy. Many studies show that exercise, even just a few times a week, boosts energy. And morning exercisers reap the biggest benefit. If you need some help learning how to exercise in the morning, check out this post on 5 Tips for Starting a Morning Exercise Routine.

7. Improve chronic pain. Losing weight is critical to improving chronic pain since the  more weight you carry, the more pressure and pain to your joints and bones you’ll experience. Exercise also reduces pain because it reduces inflammation.

8. Reduce your risk for Alzheimer’sA 2012 study from Rush University Medical Center showed that daily exercise significantly reduced your risk for Alzheimer’s, even if —get this— you start exercising after the age of 80.

9. Reduce your risk for psoriasisA 2012 study from Harvard Medical School showed that vigorous aerobic exercise and calisthenics are associated with a reduced risk of psoriasis, a chronic inflammatory skin condition.

While this isn’t a direct health benefit, regular exercise saves you money by reducing the  the number of medications and doctor’s visits you’ll need. And who wouldn’t like that?

Photo credit: FCC, Yogrenda174

Food Friday: Grandpa, Don’t Eat That Bread

A new study published in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease, shows that older people who eat a lot of carbs have nearly four times the risk of developing mild cognitive impairment (MCI), which is often a precursor to Alzheimer’s.

Old Man of Lisboa

A new study published in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease, shows that older people who eat a lot of carbs have nearly four times the risk of developing mild cognitive impairment (MCI), which is often a precursor to Alzheimer’s.

All I can say is, thank goodness my Italian grandmother never lived to hear about this. The woman ate pasta about four times a week and bread every day her life and lived to her 90’s, still sharp as a tack.

Yet, as the study shows, there might be a link between high carb intake and MCI. Study participants who ate the most carbs showed early signs of cognitive impairment including problems with memory, language, and thinking and judging. The study’s lead author said that although not everyone with MCI will develop Alzheimer’s, many will. Currently, Alzheimer’s affects over 5 million US adults, so researchers are keen to find ways to stop MCI from progressing.

The study also found that those with diets highest in fats (nuts and healthy oils) were 42% less likely to get cognitive impairment. And those with the highest protein diets (chicken, meat, fish) had a 21% reduced risk.

So what does this mean for you?

  • It doesn’t mean carbohydrates cause dementia or Alzheimer’s. More studies need to be done to determine causality.
  • Don’t throw away all your pasta and bread. Like most things in life, moderation is key. The American Diabetes Association has some good information on carb counting and serving size.
  • Eat as many non-starchy vegetables as possible, including broccoli, Swiss chard, spinach, and salad greens, which are some of the healthiest carbs you can eat.
  • Remember, that many different foods contain carbs including less healthy crackers, chips, and pastries as well as healthier milk, yogurt, and beans. So rather than banish carbs from your diet, choose smart, healthy carbs like these recommended from The Harvard School of Public Health. You might also like to read WebMD’s article on “Good Carbs, Bad Carbs,” and why they matter to you.

Photo credit: FCC, KevinPoh