Thursday, 10 January 2019

Exercising After a Task Improves Memory

Here's another reason to hit the gym

Working out might keep the brain sharp, and according to a new study, exercising four hours after learning a task can improve memory.

In the new report, published Thursday in the journal Current Biology, researchers found that exercising four hours after a memory task increased brain patterns associated with memory, and helped people retain information better than people who exercised immediately after or people who did not work out.

Seventy two people partook in a picture-location memory task for about 40 minutes. Then, the people were either randomly assigned to 35 minutes of exercise right away, exercise four hours later, or no exercise at all. Two days later, the people came back to see how well they remembered what they had learned, and their brains were scanned. The people who exercised hours later had better recall and stronger and more clear activation in the areas of their brain associated with memory retrieval.

“There is good evidence from animal data that the release of certain neurotransmitters—dopamine and norepinephrine—leads to a biochemical cascade leading to the production of so called plasticity related proteins,” says study author Guillén Fernández, director of the Donders Institute for Brain, Cognition, and Behaviour at Radboud University Medical Center in an email to TIME. “These proteins help stabilize new memory traces, which would otherwise be lost. Physical exercise is at the start of this sequence, because it is accompanied by the release of dopamine and norepinephrine.”

The idea that regular exercise has an impact on brain health, including memory, has been reported in many studies and Fernández says the new report adds to the evidence by showing a single session of exercise can aid in memory retention.

The number of people in the study is small, so it’s hard to say whether people should start pacing workouts exactly four hours after learning something important. Still, the study authors argue that their study is a proof of principal that exercise should be considered as a strategy for long-term memory.

Source by Alexandra Sifferlin

Tuesday, 11 October 2016

10 Simple Ways to Increase Your Physical Activity

by Travis Saunders

Regardless of your shape or size, physical activity has been shown to add years to your life, and life to your years. But believe it or not, the benefits of physical activity are not restricted to exercise performed in the gym. In fact, one of the easiest ways to improve your health may be through increasing the amount of low intensity physical activity you perform throughout the day. For example, simply increasing the number of steps that you take each day is very likely to reduce your risk for diseases like diabetes and cardiovascular disease. It’s still uncertain if this light intensity physical activity can reduce body weight, but it is clear that individuals who engage in high amounts of light intensity physical activity are healthier than those who do not. In fact, there is good evidence to suggest that simply reducing the amount of time spent sitting each day may reduce risk of death independently of other lifestyle factors (for one previous post on this topic, click here).

Peter and I have discussed the importance of daily physical activity in several posts over the past few months, so today we have decided to offer some practical ways that you can incorporate physical activity into your daily life. These are tips that we have found work well for us, and we think they may work well for you as well. Try one or two, and once they’ve become part of your routine try a couple more. We would also love to hear your own tips in the comments section below.

Without further ado, here are ten simple ways to become more physically active:

1. Take the stairs as often as possible.

This one is as simple as it sounds. If you have to go up two floors or less, opt for the stairs. Ditto if you have to go down three floors or less. If you have to go up or down a distance that is too great for you to walk at the moment, walk the first few flights, then take the elevator the rest of the way. Remember, every time you take the stairs instead of the elevator or escalator, you are making a decision that will positively affect your long term health.

2. Drink plenty of water.

This sounds odd, but it’s a trick that I’ve been using for years. If you are constantly sipping water throughout the day, you are going to have to pee at least once an hour. Every time you have to pee, you have a guilt-free excuse to go for a 5-minute walk to the washroom and back! To crank it up a notch, use a washroom in another part of your building, which may give you an opportunity to use the stairs as well. It’s easy to forget to take a 5-minute walk-break every hour, but it’s impossible to forget to go pee.

Added bonus – staying well hydrated may also reduce feelings of hunger, and can often reduce chronic back pain. So this is really a win-win-win.

3. Park as far from the front door as possible.

Another simple but effective tactic. Whether you’re at the mall, work, or school, parking the car at the edge of the parking lot forces you to walk just a little bit further than you are used to. It will only add a few seconds to your trip, but if you do it everyday it could add years to your life.

Added bonus – less chance of getting dinged by shopping carts and teenage drivers.

4. Clean your home regularly.

I’ve got to admit, this one was Peter’s idea (as any of my former roomates can attest, cleaning is not my forte). Most people don’t realize what a good workout cleaning can be, especially if you have a large home. Cleaning involves plenty of walking, lifting, and stretching – all of which are very good for your body. Washing dishes by hand can also be an easy way to burn a few extra calories, and to spend some time chatting with other members of your family (I spent many hours drying pots and pans for my Mom growing up).

5. Gardening and yardwork.

Yardwork is great because not only does it increase your physical activity, but it also gives you an excuse to be outside. Pulling weeds, mowing the lawn, trimming the hedge, and raking leaves are all very physically taxing and like cleaning, they use a range of muscle groups.

6. Disconnect your cable for the summer.

Time spent watching TV is an independent predictor of disease, especially for kids (for a great article on the topic by Ekelund and colleagues, click here). It’s not surprising when you think about it – the only time that most kids aren’t moving around is when they’re sitting in front of the TV. Get rid of the cable, and suddenly you’ve got one less reason to spend your days sitting on the couch. If you’re like me, after a few weeks without cable, you might start to wonder why you ever had it in the first place. And if, like me, you need to watch the NHL playoffs – walk to the local pub/sports bar with your friends on game night.

7. Buy a pedometer.

Pedometers are beeper-sized gadgets that count the number of steps that you take each day. They are a terrific way to measure the amount of physical activity you are getting each day, and can also serve as a great motivator to make the decision to walk whenever possible. Aim for at least 10,000 steps each day, but any increase is likely to bring health benefits, so don’t feel bad if you can’t get up to 10,000 right away. A high quality pedometer costs just $20, and are available online from Speakwell, a Canadian company based in British Columbia.

8. Use active transportation and public transit.

I have only been living in Ottawa for a week, but already I am in love with the bike paths. I have a beautiful 20 minute bike ride to work each day, and I can’t imagine a better way to start the day. It takes about 4 minutes longer than driving (but is significantly cheaper since there’s no parking fee to lock up my bike). Walking, roller blading, and biking are all great ways to get around, and they often take a lot less time than you’d expect.

If the trip is a little too far to hoof it, consider taking public transit. As researcher Ugo Lachapelle discussed in a recent interview here on Obesity Panacea, individuals who take public transit are more likely to meet physical activity recommendations than those who don’t take public transit. This is because most transit trips involve at least some walking to and from stops. And remember that most major cities have bike racks for buses in the summer, and allow bikes on trains during off-peak hours.

Many workplaces offer free or discounted transit pass programs, so be sure to check if your employer has such a program.

9. Have “walk-meetings”.

In an ideal world, we would all have 45 minutes for a relaxed lunch. If you happen to enjoy this luxury, consider taking half your lunch break to go for a walk either alone or with someone else you work with. It will help wake you up for the afternoon, as well as giving you a chance to chat with your co-workers (you could even use it to kickstart that workplace romance you’ve been planning for so long).

If you don’t have time to take a large walk break at lunch, consider having “walk-meetings”. Whenever you have to meet informally with co-workers, turn the meeting into a short walk. If it takes 5 minutes to discuss the project you are working on, that means you just got 5 extra minutes of physical activity! Peter and I used to frequently walk to the local grocery store on our lunch break, all the while discussing projects we were working on. It was a chance to get out of the lab, to talk about our work, and to get some physical activity all at the same time.

10. Go for a family walk after dinner.

This one was Peter’s idea, but I have to admit that we did this almost every night when I was a kid in my family as well. My sister and I would hop on our bikes, my parents would walk behind us, and the four of us would go for a half hour trip around the neighborhood. It’s another chance to spend some time together, get outside, and get some exercise all at the same time.

As you can see, none of the tips we’re suggesting is earth shattering. In fact, most of them are things you could start doing immediately, and cost absolutely nothing at all. Like I mentioned in the introduction, try out the tips that seem most realistic for you at this point in your life. Once you’ve mastered them, consider trying a couple others. And please share with us your tips for making physical activity a part of your day!

Disclaimer: While the activities we have suggested are all low to moderate intensity, speak to your physician if you have any health concerns before increasing your physical activity levels. The information here should be used as a general guide only, and should not be construed as specific medical advice. Also, work place romances are usually a bad idea, so be careful with that as well.


Monday, 10 October 2016

Controlling Your Willpower

Take half an hour to discover insights into how your willpower and motivation work.  It might save you from yourself!

Kelly McGonigal - Controlling Our Willpower

Tuesday, 5 July 2016

Why I Started Biking to Work

Another hotel bathroom, but this one had good air circulation which meant that mirror didn’t fog up. When I pulled back the shower curtain I got a shock—that naked dripping guy looking back at me was getting old, bald, and really, really fat. Something had to be done. But…

Old – nothing I can do about that.

BaldComb-over? Toupe? Nothing I can do about that (and keep my dignity, anyway).

Fat – I can do something about that…if I have to…I guess.

What to do? I hate to exercise, and I don’t have time for it anyway. When I looked out the bus window a few days later, I saw a guy riding a bike and thought, “I have one of those.” I mulled it over for a few weeks, then the end of the month arrived: it was time to buy a new bus pass and the price was going up to $50. My old mountain bike was collecting dust. It was time to act.

I went to the thrift store and picked up a used backpack, put my bus pass with one day left on it in my pocket (just in case), headed off to work…and survived.

Things have changed over the years: the backpack was replaced by a sweet garment bag, the beat-up mountain bike is now a dedicated commuting machine, the office moved to a new building four miles further away, bus passes are now $72, and I am fifty pounds lighter.

I’ve learned to question assumptions about what it means to get to work: I used think my commute was just a requirement of life, now it is a valuable part of my day. I’ve also learned that I can even do something about old and bald.

  • Old–I look and feel younger (studies show that those who get regular exercise have a body age lower than those who don’t).
  • Bald–your hairline doesn’t matter when you are wearing a bike helmet.

One more thing: hotel mirrors don’t scare me anymore.

Monday, 4 July 2016

Is it Possible to Bulk Up On a Vegan Diet?

Is it Possible to Bulk Up On a Vegan Diet?

by JJ Muenz

If you’ve ever thought about how to build muscle on a plant-based diet, you’ve come to the right place.

Some people picture vegans as willowy and lean, but vegans come in all shapes and sizes. Whether your goals are to lean out, run faster, or put on muscle, it can be done on a vegan diet.

Why Switch to a Vegan Diet?

People come to vegan diets for numerous reasons. I tried a vegan diet for four years, but had no idea how to do it the right way.

I failed miserably, eating inflammatory foods and enough carbs to cause a 20-pound weight gain. If I had researched or talked to healthy vegans who knew how to cook, my experience with veganism would’ve been quite different.

Don’t turn into the chips and salsa, corn tortilla, and black bean burrito vegan eater that I was, and take the advice from star athlete Pat Reeves.

Vegan power lifter Pat Reeves, who has followed a plant-based diet for more than forty-four years, originally started her vegan diet to fight cancer, but continues because of her high levels of energy. Four years ago, at age 66, she became the oldest competing weightlifter in Europe. And just last year, she broke her own deadlift record.

Pat Reeves’ Daily Vegan Meals

Here’s a quick look at Pat’s daily meals, via

Breakfast: Sprouted groats, plus fruit, homemade soy/almond yoghurt, sometimes dehydrated into ‘biscuits’ and topped with fresh fruit and seeds

Midmorning: Nut/seed milk, fruit

Lunch: – At least 8 types of sprouted greens, plus tofu (I make this and yoghurt and this is basically my only cooked food), or sprouted pulses, plus a dressing,

Mid-afternoon: Vegetable pate with crudities, a sprouted grain and fruit,

Evening meal: Similar to lunch, perhaps a raw warmed-through soup, but I will use different vegetables, grains etc.

Other vegan athletes say to eat these foods in abundance when trying to bulk: black lentils, beans, nuts, protein shakes with at least 40 grams of vegan protein, coconut oil, oatmeal, sweet potatoes, brown rice, broccoli, high fat almond milk, asparagus, tomatoes and olive oil.

So if you are looking to bulk up and lean out, incorporate these foods into your diet. As you probably know, every body is different, so it will take some trials to see what food works best for your unique body.

You could do well on sprouted foods, or a bag of trail mix filled with nuts, sunflower seeds and goji berries or maybe high fat almond milk is the ticket to your prime-bulking venture.

Either way, diet is a part of the equation, but fitness must be incorporated to make your vegan bulking a success.

Saturday, 2 July 2016

Thailand scrapping squat loos for sit downs due to alarming number of arthritis cases

Just over 85% of households and public facilities use ankle-high Nile pans, but these are being blamed as a cause of osteoarthritis of the knee

Thai people were relieved yesterday... to hear the country is scrapping its squat loos.

The Public Health Ministry revealed it will remove 90% of their bog-standard toilets by 2016 and replace them with sit-downs.

The poop-ular move comes due to an alarming number of people suffering from squat-related arthritis.

Just over 85% of households and public facilities use ankle-high Nile pans.

But these are being blamed as a cause of osteoarthritis of the knee.

Deputy Minister, Cholanan Srikaew, revealed that six million natives – and some expats – have the ­condition.

It is also hoped new facilities will improve tourism, which earns 7% of Thailand’s gross domestic product.

A source said: “Prolonged periods of squatting have been found to cause arthritis. It is hoped the new toilets will save a few more knees and boost tourism.”

Friday, 1 July 2016

3 Mindful Things To Do Before You Fall Asleep

You can't force a better night's sleep—but it does help to try something new.

By Elisha Goldstein

Do you find it difficult to get a decent night’s rest? Do you spend a good deal of the night tossing and turning? Then you might be among the ranks of the 30% of adults in the United States who are regularly sleep deprived, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC).

Fortunately, there’s a few key habits that can help you turn over a new leaf—or in this instance, a new pillowcase. As Jason Ong, a sleep psychologist at Rush University Medical Center reminds us: “Each night is a new night. Be open and try something different! What you have been doing to this point is probably not working well.”

Try these three mindful tips for a better night’s sleep and see what you notice:

Before you go to bed:

1. Say goodnight to your devices: The first thing we need to pay attention to is getting our screens out of the room. If you have your phone or a tablet lighting up your bedside table, it’s going to disturb your sleeping patterns. It’s best if it’s not in your room at all. It’s creating activity in your mind that you have to pay attention to.

2. Don’t force it: We have to stop trying to fall asleep. Our brains are too smart for that. The moment we’re trying to do something, we’re creating stress on top of it. So we don’t want to try and fall asleep. See if you can let go of the notion of trying to fall asleep at all.

3. Try a body scan meditation: Bring mindfulness into the sleep experience. You can do a gentle body scan practice where you’re being curious about just noticing sensations in your body and your breathing. When your attention wanders or becomes frustrated, see if you can just take note of that and gently come back to being with what’s here. When we allow ourselves to be with what’s here, the body naturally goes to rest, which is what it wants to do.


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