Tag: Exercise

Is Yoga Good Exercise?

From CrossFit to Insanity workouts, exercise has lately trended toward the extreme. But physical activity doesn’t always have to be vigorous to be effective.

While it may seem mellow compared to most training programs, yoga’s health benefits keep pace—and often outdistance—what many people would call “traditional” forms of exercise.

For starters, research shows regular yoga practice lowers your risk for heart disease and hypertension. Yoga may also lessen symptoms of depression, headaches, diabetes, some forms of cancer and pain-related diseases like arthritis.




Yoga also seems to combat weight gain.

One 4-year study from Seattle’s Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center found middle-aged adults who practiced yoga at least once a week gained 3 fewer pounds than those who stuck with other forms of exercise.

The same study found overweight adults who practice yoga lost 5 pounds, while a non-yoga group gained 13 pounds. Those results held even when the authors accounted for different eating habits.

How can a little bending and stretching do all that? Unlike exercises like running or lifting weights—both of which crank up your heart rate and stimulate your nervous system—yoga does just the opposite.

It puts you in a parasympathetic state, so your heart rate goes down and blood pressure goes down,” says Dr. Tiffany Field, director of the Touch Research Institute at the University of Miami School of Medicine.

Field has published an in-depth review of yoga’s potential health benefits. She says the types and varieties of movement involved in yoga stimulate pressure receptors in your skin, which in turn ramp up your brain and body’s vagal activity.

Your vagus nerve connects your brain to several of your organs, and it also plays a role in hormone production and release.

All of this may explain yoga’s research-backed ties to a healthier heart, as well as its ability to slash your stress, improve your mood, quell your appetite and help you sleep more soundly, Field says.

When you consider the health perks linked to each of those brain and body benefits—lower inflammation, lower body weight, lower disease risk—you could make an argument that few activities are as good for you as yoga.

One thing yoga doesn’t do, though, is burn loads of calories. Even hot forms of yoga like Bikram result in modest energy expenditures—roughly the number of calories you’d burn during a brisk walk.

While more and more research suggests calories shouldn’t be your sole focus when it comes to diet and exercise, there’s no question that running, swimming, lifting weights and other more-vigorous forms of exercise are great for your brain and body.

Yoga is unquestionably good for you, Field says, but it should be done in tandem with traditional forms of physical activity—not in place of them.

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Pass it on: New Scientist

How To Actually Keep New Year’s Resolutions, According To A Behavioral Scientist

If you plan on becoming a better person in 2015 by exercising more, eating less, or learning a new language, you’re going to need a whole lot more than just good intentions to get you there.

Here’s a little psychological experiment that just might help you stick to your goals.

So, in 2018 we’re all going to go to the gym more regularly, eat better, earn more, and read twice as many books, right?

Wrong – for the majority of us anyway. If you want a good indication for what you’ll be doing in 2018, your best bet is to look at what you did in 2017.

Studies have shown that good intentions alone will only prompt a change in behavior 20 to 30 percent of the time.




In the vast majority of cases, something a little more concrete is going to have to come into play if you want to make a meaningful change to your habits.

So, surprise, surprise, it takes a whole lot more effort to stick to your new year’s resolutions than just writing them down in a fancy list.

And even more discouraging – research has shown that the better we feel about our new year’s resolutions and our ability to stick with them, the less likely we actually will.

But, as Stephen J. Meyer writes at Forbes, it’s not hopeless:

“I’d be a hardened pessimist if not for one thing – there’s a magic bullet that can bridge the gap between goal intentions and goal accomplishment.”

“It’s what behavioural psychologists call “implementation intentions.” Ugly phrase, I know. But it could be the difference between achieving your goals in 2015 and failing miserably.”

So what exactly is this “implementation intentions” concept?

Back in 2002, researchers in the UK gathered together a group of volunteers who had set themselves the goal of taking up regular exercising. The volunteers were split into three groups.

The first group, called the “motivational intervention group”, was given educational materials showing that exercise does amazing things for your cardio-vascular health.

The second group was asked to plan and write down their “implementation intentions”.

For example, exactly where, when, what, they were going to do for exercise, and how frequently, and for how long, each session.

The control group was left to their own with no help from the researchers.

Amazingly, 91 percent of Group 2, who actually thought about and wrote down all the details of their plan, ended up exercising.

According to Meyer, just 29 percent of the control group and 39 percent of the group who learned extensively about the benefits of exercise ended up actually doing it.

So implementation intentions are essentially about fooling ourselves into doing something – you consciously formulate a plan, and then unconsciously execute it.

Gollwitzer mentioned a study in which students were asked to write a paper during the Christmas break.

Of the group that wrote down their implementation intentions – when and where they intended to write their paper – two-thirds of them actually did it.

Exactly zero students who didn’t write their implementation intentions got around to writing the paper.

Apparently similar results can be seen in people trying to lose weight.

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Pass it on: Popular Science