TIME Exercise/Fitness

Yoga Helps Older Adults Battle Depression and Anxiety

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For many older adults, the thought of stepping into a yoga class swarming with yogis more flexible than Gumby might provoke anxiety. But the practice itself may be just the antidote the over-60 set needs, suggests a recent review of studies about relaxation exercises. Those who did yoga and other calming activities saw greater reductions in their anxiety and depression than people who didn’t.

The body of literature on yoga’s relaxation benefits spans all kinds of people, but the authors thought adults aged 60 and older deserved their own analysis. Up to 40% of older adults report anxiety, they note, and anywhere from 15-20% of the elderly experience depression. So in the review published in the journal Aging & Mental Health, researchers scrutinized 15 studies—12 of them randomized controlled trials—from the past two decades that looked at different methods of relaxation. They gauged the effectiveness of six techniques: yoga, listening to music, tensing and relaxing different groups of muscles, massage therapy and stress management training.

MORE: Is Bikram Yoga Safe?

The most effective ways to alleviate depression were yoga, the music intervention and the muscle tensing and relaxing exercise—called PMRT, for progressive muscle relaxation training. The music and yoga interventions were the best for anxiety.

Yoga had the strongest staying power. Positive effects from the stretching, breathing and meditation exercises stuck around six months later in older adults. “It could help counterbalance the negative effects of ageing, improve physical functioning, postpone disability, decrease morbidity and mortality, stimulate the mind, and increase hope, reducing the risk of anxiety and depression,” the study authors write.

MORE: 15 Ways Exercise Makes You Look and Feel Younger

And good vibes from PMRT lasted 14 weeks after the intervention ended. “It is believed that the PMRT has a tranquilising effect, triggers a sense of peacefulness, helps participants retreat mentally from their problem and curtails negative thoughts, reducing depressive symptoms,” the authors write.

The most effective intervention, of course, is the one you enjoy doing—and these results suggest that it’s never too late to find your favorite way to unwind.

 

TIME Exercise/Fitness

The Pros and Cons of Running on the Treadmill

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Running on a treadmill is easier on your joints

Is it better to run on a treadmill or outside on the pavement? It’s an age-old question and the truth is there are pros and cons to both. There are definitely some types of workouts you can do better or more efficiently on a treadmill. However, running on a ‘mill can create that aimless, never-ending ‘hamster wheel’ feeling for some. It depends on your goals, injury history, and preference, too.

Here are 6 pros and cons to running on a treadmill versus running outside on the pavement or trail.

Pro: The difficulty level is the same

The question of difficulty level always arises when it comes to running indoors versus out. People assume that running outside is empirically harder than logging miles inside on a treadmill. However, research has proven that setting the treadmill to a 1% incline accurately reflects the same energy costs of running outdoors. So, it’s just as effective as long as you add a little incline.

Read more: 15 Running Tips You Need to Know

Pro: It’s easier on your joints

The smooth, cushioned belt is more forgiving than hard pavement or cement. Running on a treadmill can help reduce some of the impact on the joints and the body as a whole. This can be especially helpful when rehabbing or coming back from an injury. Make sure you ease your way back to the road following an injury by alternating treadmill and outdoor runs a few times a week, instead of going cold turkey.

Read more: 7 Running Injuries and How to Avoid Them

Pro: You can simulate race environments

Many of the more advanced treadmills allow you to create your own unique course profile, which you can use to simulate the exact course you’re training for. Even if you’re not training for a race, you can switch up your workout by choosing a certain trail or terrain from around the world, depending on the options, to make you feel as though you’re half a world away. You also have no worries of weather, temperature, or terrain issues while running on a treadmill, which can mean everything if you live in a very cold or wet part of the country.

Read more: 7 Ways to Make Your Treadmill Runs More Effective

Con: You could lose your agility

Although the treadmill might provide your joints with more cushion, you don’t get the added benefit of running on uneven terrain or pavement. Even if the ground outside might feel flat to you, it never truly is. Therefore, your foot and leg muscles are constantly making small adjustments to adapt to the changing surfaces. These adjustments are great for coordination and balance and will help improve your ability to do everyday things. While treadmill running can help improve your overall fitness, it won’t mimic the real-life situations that are simulated through running outdoors.

Read more: Here’s How Much Running Is Healthiest for You, According to One Study

Con: You don’t work as many muscles

Because there is a machine powering the belt, the muscle mechanics differ when you run on the treadmill. Outside, you typically rely on your hamstrings to finish the stride cycle and lift your legs behind you, almost kicking your butt. But on a treadmill, the propulsion of the belt does much of that work for you. You use your quads to push off, but your hamstrings aren’t firing as much as they would if you were running outdoors. If you’re only running on the treadmill, be sure that you’re also doing cross training to work the muscles on the back of your legs, including your hamstrings and glutes.

Read more: 10 Exercise Cheats That Blow Your Calorie Burn

Con: It’s boring

There are no two ways about it: Running inside is boring. Even if you have the best playlist or you’re watching TV, it’s just too easy to look at that clock directly in front of you—and see that only 30 seconds have passed since the last time you checked it. (You can try covering the display with a towel to keep that clock out of sight). When running outside, the time naturally seems to move faster because you are literally covering more ground. Plus, you set a literal finish line for your run and see it getting closer and closer as you approach it. This provides you with a more natural sense of distance and will give you that extra push to finish strong when you feel like giving up.

This article originally appeared on Health.com.

TIME Exercise/Fitness

Is Bikram Yoga Safe?

A new study shows hot yoga may make participants dangerously warm

Bikram yoga may not be as safe as yogis believe, a new study suggests.

The study, sponsored by the American Council on Exercise and published in the Gundersen Medical Journal, showed practicing yoga in a hot room can raise internal temperatures and heart rates to levels that may be dangerous for some people.

“The dramatic increases in heart rate and core temperature are alarming when you consider that there is very little movement, and therefore little cardiovascular training, going on during class,” said study author Emily Quandt, a researcher working under John P. Porcari at the University of Wisconsin—La Crosse’s Department of Exercise and Sport Science, in a statement.

Bikram yoga is usually 90 minutes long and is practiced in a room that is 105° F with 40 percent humidity. To understand what impact this has on the body, the researchers looked at 20 healthy volunteers between the ages of 28 and 67. All the men and women regularly practiced Bikram yoga. At the start of the study, the men and women swallowed a core body temperature sensor, and wore a heart-rate monitor during their class. Their core temperature was recorded before the class started and then every 10 minutes. Heart rate was recorded every minute. The men and women also had their rate of perceived exertion (RPE) assessed at the end of the class.

The researchers found that many of the volunteers’ core temperatures reached higher than 103° F. One man in the study had a core temperature that was over 104° F. None of the men or women had symptoms of heat intolerance, but the researchers note that heat illness and heat stroke can happen when core temperatures reach 104° F. “Although there are potential benefits associated with practicing Bikram yoga, the potential for heat intolerance among some students, including those who may not yet be acclimatized to the heat, should not be entirely overlooked,” the study authors wrote.

In addition, the researchers found that average heart rate was 80% of the predicted maximum heart rate for men and 72% of the predicted maximum for women. The highest heart rate for women in the class was 85% of the predicted maximum heart rate for women and 92% for men.

The study authors say people should remember to stay hydrated when practicing Bikram yoga. You can watch the study authors explain their findings in the video below.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?t=260&v=796kNNslyLg

TIME Exercise/Fitness

Meet the Transgender Man Leading the Men’s Health Cover Contest

At first glance, Aydian Dowling looks like the average reader of Men’s Health magazineand an excellent contender for the title’s annual cover contest. Besides his handsome, bearded face, he’s got a solid six-pack and plenty of cool tattoos.

But Dowling is actually on the cusp of marking a historic first for the magazine and for men like him. The 27-year-old proud transgender man is currently destroying the field of candidates in the reader’s choice portion of the contest.

“It’s crazy,” Dowling told People. “It’s phenomenal, the amount of support it’s gotten—how many people have re-Tweeted and re-blogged and re-posted and liked and shared and commented and voted.”

Read more: Meet the Transgender Teen Who’s One of the New Faces of Clean & Clear

Will he be the next Men’s Health “Ultimate Guy” cover star? Well, he is surpassing the No. 2 contender by more than 27,000 votes as of this writing. And he certainly fits the magazine’s criteria: “a guy who is fit and fearless, a doer who gives back and leads by example.”

Assigned female at birth, it took Dowling most of his life to come out as trans. From an early age, he identified as male, but faced criticism from the people around him. “I just wanted to act a certain way, but I was told that was not how girls act,” he told Men’s Health as part of their feature series on each of the contestants.

He came out as a lesbian during his teenage years, but it wasn’t until he was 21 that his then-girlfriend asked him: Have you ever wanted to be a boy?

At the time, Dowling didn’t want to be trans, he told Men’s Health. “I was scared, and I thought being a lesbian was hard enough.” But shortly after that question, he started to think about it. He began searching for information online about transitioning, according to The Daily Beast.

Read more: Coming Out at School Better for LGBT Youth, Study Finds

This was in 2009. Before Bruce Jenner announced he’d sit down with Diane Sawyer and before Laverne Cox (from Orange Is the New Black) was named one of TIME magazine’s most influential people. Dowling couldn’t find much of anything about being trans save for a clip from the Maury Show in which a man revealed that he had transitioned from a woman. Still, “that little three-minute clip was life-changing,” Dowling told The Daily Beast.

He spent the next five years vlogging about his own transition via his YouTube channel, which he still updates, now with advice for others going through the process.

Dowling lives in Eugene, Oregon, with his wife of three years, and stays busy selling and promoting his clothing company, Point 5cc, which offers free chest binders to trans men in need. (These garments are often worn my female-to-male transgender people to flatten their chests. They can be pricey, but they often curb the intense discomfort associated with gender dysphoria.) Each year, Point 5cc awards the Transgender Surgery Fund to a person pursuing a gender-confirming surgery.

On top of that, Dowling maintains another YouTube channel called BeefHeads Fitness, a collaborative page dedicated to bodybuilding and lifestyle tips for people who have transitioned from female to male.

“I started bodybuilding because I wanted my outer body to feel more masculine like my inner soul does, so I started training and it really just changed my whole life,” he told People. “I started to feel better. You’re forced in front of a mirror to make sure that you’re doing an exercise properly, and after five days a week in front of a mirror, you start to get used to your body. You start to appreciate it.”

Read more: Here’s Why Sam Smith Says Accepting His Body Helped His Career

Dowling started BeefHeads Fitness in the hopes that it would help others in the community feel more confident in their bodies. The feedback from the channel, along with encouragement from friends and family, pushed him to enter the Men’s Health cover competition.

“I want to break the stereotype of what a man should or shouldn’t be,” he said to People. “I think it would blow minds. I think it would be so affirming to young kids who are lost right now and depressed to see somebody on a magazine, to see if I can do it, they can do it too.”

If Dowling wins the overall competition, he would not only be the first transgender male to be featured on the cover of Men’s Health, but the first to ever appear on any major national magazine.

“Having a trans person on the cover would tell people that no matter who you are, you can be the man you want to be,” he told Men’s Health. “It’s fully possible if you put the time and effort and balance it takes to find the man in you.”

This article originally appeared on Health.com.

TIME Exercise/Fitness

Fitness Guru Jillian Michaels Files $10 Million Lawsuit

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The trainer says she has not been compensated for videos used by Lionsgate

Fitness star and trainer Jillian Michaels has filed a $10 million lawsuit against Lionsgate over YouTube videos posted to its channel.

Michaels—a former The Biggest Loser host—claims Lionsgate has not compensated her for her workout videos that are used on the Lionsgate BeFit YouTube channel, Variety reports. Michaels says she was not consulted about Lionsgate’s use of her brand and image and that the amount of videos used by the studio has exceeded their contract so she should receive royalties.

Michaels says her videos make up nearly half of the 350 million views gained by the channel.

Michaels and Lionsgate did not respond to requests for comment at publication.

TIME Exercise/Fitness

Strenuous Exercise May Not Be That Bad for You After All

A researcher is changing his tune about his findings

A health researcher is walking back his claim that strenuous exercise places runners at equal risk of death as people who don’t exercise at all, after the study received widespread media attention.

The researchers should have presented the result as a possibility rather than a concrete finding, study lead author Peter Schnohr told the BBC. “We should have said we suspect that it is so, but we can’t say for sure. Everybody makes some mistakes in papers,” he said.

The study concluded that “strenuous joggers have a mortality rate not statistically different from that of the sedentary group.”

Schnohr’s research, which received attention across many media outlets, including TIME, looked at data on the health of thousands of runners and non-runners over a 12-year period. But its conclusions on strenuous exercise were drawn from a sample of only 36 people. The study reported the small sample size, something that Schnohr said sophisticated readers should have noticed.

“It shouldn’t have been misunderstood,” he told the BBC. “If you normally read papers you could say ‘Ah!'”

Strenuous exercise was defined as running at a speed of more than 7 mph for at least four hours per week.

TIME Exercise/Fitness

FBI Agents Must Now Pass Fitness Tests

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The practice of regularly assessing agents is being re-implemented

For the first time in 16 years, FBI agents are being made to undergo fitness tests to ensure they’re ready for duty.

The bureau’s 13,500 agents have until October to complete a physical exam that assesses whether they are fit enough to perform the tasks required of the job, according to the New York Times. An internal memo from FBI director James B. Comey announced the exams, which were officially rolled out at the end of last year.

Before the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, FBI agents performed more fieldwork, like tracking gangs and making arrests. After 9/11, the agency focused on counterterrorism efforts, work that required agents to put in long hours and be desk-bound more often. Some agents gained weight, the Times reports, and others became depressed.

The fitness requirements differ based on age and gender, but each agent is required to complete a given number of push-ups and sit-ups without stopping in a short period of time, then sprint a given distance in a certain amount of time as well as complete a 1.5-mile run.

[NYT]

TIME Mental Health/Psychology

5 Ways Your Commute Is Hurting Your Health

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Long hours in transit can negatively affect your body and mind

The average American commute to work lasts 25 minutes, according to U.S. Census data, but many workers travel far above and beyond that number. In Los Angeles, drivers spend an average of 90 hours a year stuck in traffic alone, and employees in New York City spend an average of 48 minutes a day getting to their jobs, often switching trains or busses along the way.

Commuting is rarely anyone’s favorite time of day, but it can be more than just an inconvenience: All those hours spent in home-work limbo can have physical and mental health implications, as well. Here are five ways your car, train, or bus ride to the office can affect your well-being, plus what to do about it.

It may contribute to weight gain

A 2012 study published in the American Journal of Preventative Medicine found that the farther Texas residents commuted every day, the more likely they were to be overweight. Unsurprisingly, the farthest commuters were also less likely to get the recommended amount of daily physical activity. “It’s not so easy to move or change your job, so if you do have a long commute it’s important that you make a bigger effort to be active during the day,” says lead study author Christine Hoehner, PhD. “Take walking breaks, get up from your desk often, take the stairs, and make it a priority to exercise whenever you do have time.”

If you can, it might also be a good idea to try public transportation: men and women who drove to work weighed about 6.6 and 5.5 pounds more, respectively, than their peers who walked, cycled, or took trains or buses, a 2014 study in The BMJ found.

Read more: 20 Filling Foods That Help You Lose Weight

It’s a pain in the neck—literally

A third of people with commutes of more than 90 minutes say they deal with ongoing neck and back pain, according to a 2010 Gallup poll. While back pain is one of the most common health complaints, only one in four people who commute 10 minutes or less reported pain in the same poll.

The extra time spent sitting slumped forward in the driver’s seat or on the train could contribute to these issues, says Andrew Wolf, exercise physiologist at Miraval Resort and Spa in Tucson, Arizona. But making an effort to sit up straight—with a lumbar support behind your lower back, and your head evenly over your shoulders—can help you reverse bad habits. “It’s a lifestyle choice that requires that you think about it a bit every day,” he says. “Do enough of this and it will become automatic.”

Read more: 15 Exercises for People in Pain

It affects your mood

People who drove, carpooled, or took public transportation to work were less able to enjoy daily activities and had more trouble concentrating compared to walkers or cyclists in a 2014 study from the University of East Anglia. Interestingly, the researchers found that wellbeing scores decreased for car commuters as time spent behind the wheel increased. But for walkers, the opposite held true: Those who traveled farther to work on foot had better mental health scores.

If there’s no getting around public transportation for you, one thing you might try is talking to strangers. According to a 2014 study published in the Journal of Experimental Psychology, bus and train commuters reported more positive experiences when they connected with other riders than when they kept to themselves.

Read more: 12 Worst Habits For Your Mental Health

It stresses you out

People who commute by private car (no matter how long the trip)—or those whose trips lasted longer than 30 minutes by train, bus or on foot—had higher anxiety levels compared to people who made shorter trips, according to a 2014 report from the U.K.’s Office of National Statistics.

Hoehner’s research also found that the longer people’s car commutes were, the more likely they were to have elevated blood pressure—even when she controlled for physical activity level. “That finding suggested that there’s something going on independent of the fact that people are less active, potentially something related to stress,” she says. (Other risk factors for hypertension, like lack of sleep, poor diet, and social isolation, could also play a role.)

“One way to combat this could be for employers to allow people to commute at different times of the day, so they’re not spending so much time in traffic,” Hoehner adds. Can’t switch up your schedule? Turn on a soothing playlist or practice slow, deep breathing when you feel yourself tensing up.

Read more: 12 Superfoods for Stress Relief

It exposes you to more pollution

In a 2007 study of Los Angeles residents, up to half of their exposure to harmful air pollution occurred while they traveled in their vehicles. Driving with the windows up, using recirculated air, and driving slower than 20 miles per hour can reduce exposure, say the study authors, but not as much as cutting back on driving time.

Cycling to work increases exposure to pollutants, as well, according to a 2010 Dutch study—but the same research also found that its health benefits of getting your heart rate up on your ride still outweigh its risks by at least nine times.

Read more: 15 Ways Exercise Makes You Look and Feel Younger

This article originally appeared on Health.com.

Read next: The Surprising Upside to America’s Worsening Traffic Jams

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TIME Exercise/Fitness

15 Ways Exercise Makes You Look and Feel Younger

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Put down the creams and potions and start sweating off the years

The powers of a steady fitness routine are impressive: regular exercise can help you build stronger muscles, stave off chronic illnesses, and make your clothes fit a whole lot better. But there’s another benefit of physical activity that deserves a shout-out: the way even moderate amounts seem to shave years off your age, no matter how many birthdays you’ve actually celebrated. Of course, you can’t change your chronological age, but exercise can improve your health to the point where you look and feel younger than you are, says Frank Frisch, PhD, director of kinesiology at Chapman University in Orange, Calif. Behold the 15 physical and mental effects a sweat session can have on your brain and body. Just reading this list will motivate you to never blow off a gym session again.

Exercise gives you more vim and vigor

A workout is like nature’s energy drink, firing up your brain and body so you feel more alert and alive. “Exercise puts your body in a state of arousal, which translates into more vitality and a greater sense of well being,” says Frisch. “Daily tasks become less strenuous and require less exertion.” It’s the kind of pep in your step that makes you feel like you’ve peeled off a decade or two.

Exercise jumpstarts your sex drive

A sweat session improves blood flow all over your body, including below the belt, and the extra blood surge makes you feel more responsive and increasing arousal, says Mary Jane Minkin, MD, clinical professor of obstetrics and gynecology at Yale School of Medicine. Exercise also powers your sex drive in a psychological way. “Working out brings on more confidence about your appearance and body, and that puts you in a sexier mindset,” says Dr. Minkin. And don’t forget the all-over energy surge exercise offers, which gives you extra fuel so you can rock the sheets.

Read more: 15 Everyday Habits to Boost Your Libido

Exercise keeps your skin soft and glowing

A dewy sheen on your cheeks thanks to all the sweat dripping off your forehead may not be the only way fitness keeps your skin young. Researchers at McMaster University in Ontario studied a small group of adults between ages 20 and 84. The frequent exercisers who were over age 40 had skin that resembled the more supple, elastic skin of people in their 20s and 30s. The difference had nothing to do with sun exposure (which would age your skin faster if you didn’t wear sunscreen), reported the research team; they theorized that exercise creates body substances that help slow aging in skin, though they say more research is needed to learn how exercise changes skin composition.

Exercise improves your posture

Thanks to muscle loss and bone density changes, your posture takes a hit as you age. Counteract this with strength training, which builds muscle and bone health, especially in your core and along your spine, so you naturally stand taller and shave years off your appearance, says Amie Hoff, personal trainer and founder of Hoff Fitness in New York City. Working out also makes you feel more psychologically powerful, so you naturally stop slouching and straighten up, she adds.

Read more: 10 Ways to Have Great Posture as You Age

Exercise improves your flexibility

Aging doesn’t just make your opinions more inflexible—it makes your muscles and joints more fixed in place as well, leaving you feeling stiff and rickety. Regular workouts, especially stretching-oriented routines such as yoga and Pilates, keep you loose and bendy, says Hoff. “If cardio workouts are your preference, you can still boost your flexibility by warming up and cooling down with foam roller exercises,” she suggests. This foam fitness tool gets rid of the knots that form in muscle, reducing rigidity.

Read more: 4 Things You Need To Know About Foam Rolling

Exercise boosts your mood

You’ve heard of runner’s high, and that blissful mood boost can happen during any sweat-inducing cardio workout. It seems to come down to endorphins: the body chemicals your system cranks out when you’re active. “Endorphins are like natural opiates,” says Eric Sternlicht, PhD, associate professor of kinesiology at Chapman University. Some evidence shows that gym sessions can trigger changes in other neurotransmitters linked to pleasurable feelings, such as dopamine. And the confidence kick you get helps you feel happier too.

Exercise helps you sleep soundly

Restful sleep is like a fountain of youth, and exercise helps you achieve it. “Research shows that regular exercisers fall asleep more easily and are more likely to experience deep REM sleep,” says Frisch. A heart-pumping workout tires you out, sure, but there’s more to it than that. Sleeping well helps all the systems in your body function optimally, so you’re less likely to feel stressed and then toss and turn all night. A recent study bears this out, finding that getting at least 150 minutes of exercise per week improved sleep quality by 65%.

Exercise keeps your metabolism high

Metabolism naturally slows as you age, so it’s harder to avoid pound creepage as the years pass. Luckily scheduling regular workout sessions helps you increase the total number of calories you burn, helping you maintain a steady, healthy weight. You’ll torch more calories if you add in resistance training to your routine at least a few times a week, since working out with free weights or doing bodyweight exercises helps build muscle mass. “The more muscle you have, the higher your calorie burn is,” says Sternlicht. “And it stays higher all day long, even after you’ve stopped exercising.”

Exercise slows cell aging

Exercise doesn’t just make you feel younger—it may actually turn off the aging process in your chromosomes. It has to do with telomeres, the caps at the end of chromosomes that control aging. Telomeres become shorter as you get older, and longer telomeres are associated with longevity. Recent studies have found a link between regular exercise and the lengthening of the telomeres, suggesting that exercise can slow the clock so you live longer. “Though exercise won’t guarantee you a long life, it can greatly improve your odds,” says Frisch.

Exercise reduces belly fat

As you creep into middle age, fat that used to primarily land on your hips and thighs starts to increasingly show up along your belly; this is especially true after menopause. Unlike fat on other body areas, this visceral fat, as it’s known, can increase your risk of chronic conditions such as diabetes and heart disease. It’s stubborn, but regular cardio sessions appear to reduce or erase it. A 2011 Duke University study found that cardio workouts can lead to more belly fat loss than strength training workouts or a combo of strength training and cardio.

Read more: 11 Reasons Why You’re Not Losing Belly Fat

Exercise relieves stress

A long outdoor run or scenic hike can distract you from anxiety and worries. But there may be a physiological reason exercise lowers stress levels. “The endorphin release prompted by a workout has a relaxing effect and reduces anxiety,” says Zonoozi. Also, more meditative forms of exercise, such as yoga or Tai Chi, encourage mindfulness along with moving your body. Staying in the moment so you focus on your breathing and heart rate make it a lot harder to mentally freak out about a stressful work project or that fight you had last night with a friend.

Exercise enhances your memory

As years pass, it’s normal to become forgetful. But research suggests that you can fight brain fog with fitness. Researchers writing in the British Journal of Sports Medicine in 2014 found that regular aerobic exercise seems to increase the size of the hippocampus, a part of the brain associated with memory. Previous research has also linked exercise to sharper cognitive skills. If you’re experiencing more senior moments these days, dial them back by getting on the treadmill.

Exercise makes your heart more efficient

Like all muscles, your heart gets weak and flabby with inactivity. As a result, it has to work harder to pump blood throughout your body, racking up more stress and leaving you feeling easily fatigued and winded. Good thing even moderately intense exercise (like a brisk 30-minute walk) can make your heart stronger, so it pumps oxygen-rich blood more efficiently through your system, resulting in less strain, says Rhonda Zonoozi, exercise physiologist and certified health and wellness coach at the Sun Health Center for Health and Wellbeing in Arizona.

Exercise protects you from heart disease

Exercise’s heart-healthy benefits don’t stop there. Regular workouts also reduce your risk of cardio problems that tend to crop up with age, such as high blood pressure and high levels of triglycerides, a type of fat in the blood that can block or harden arteries. Both are big-time contributors to heart disease, the number one killer of men and women, according to the CDC. “Exercise also improves levels of HDL, or good cholesterol, the kind that protects your heart from cardiovascular disease,” says Zonoozi.

Read more: 14 Things Heart Doctors Tell Their Friends

Exercise improves your blood flow

As you age, it’s not only joints that can get stiff—the blood vessels in your body can lose their flexibility. This makes it harder for them to expand and contract as needed to deliver oxygen-rich blood to parts of the body that need it the most (like the brain, heart, and muscles.) And stiffer arteries can raise your blood pressure, meaning your heart has to work harder to pump blood through them. Exercise can lower blood pressure and improve circulation, and some research suggests that even simple stretching—think yoga, Pilates, or any stretching moves—can help boost flexibility of blood vessels.

This article originally appeared on Health.com.

Read next: 5 Fitness Trends That Are Having a Moment

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TIME Exercise/Fitness

17 Dos and Don’ts of Running With Your Dog

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Working out together can help both you and your furry friend stay healthy and happy

Your dog may be the ultimate exercise partner. Think about it: dogs are always eager to spend more time with you, they have plenty of excess energy to burn, and temptation to skip a scheduled sweat session melts away when your furry friend stands at the front door, leash in mouth, ready to log a few miles with you.

Before you hit the pavement, though, you’ll need to train your pooch to run with you. Here’s how to make your run enjoyable and rewarding for both you and your best (furry) friend.

Do: Give it a try

Just like humans, dogs need daily exercise for their health and happiness. And again, just like humans, American pets have a pudge problem: an estimated 52% of dogs are overweight or obese. Walking or running with your dog on a leash is one way to get you both moving more. Not all dogs are cut out to log multiple miles at once (more on that later), but many can learn to be great running partners. “Even if you think your dog is too hyper or too poorly behaved to jog alongside you, he may just need some training and some time to get used to it,” says Angi Aramburu, owner of Go Fetch Run, a group exercise class for owners and their dogs in New York City.

Don’t: Assume your dog’s a runner

Before you hit the road, consider your dog’s health, build, and breed. Older pups may have joint problems that can slow them down or make running uncomfortable. Dogs with short legs may not be able to keep up with the pace you’d like to maintain, while larger breeds are prone to hip dysplasia, an abnormal formation of the hip socket that can lead to arthritis, says Arumburu. Then, if your furry friend is a chihuahua, bulldog, pug, or other snort-nosed, flat-faced breed (also known as brachycephalic), running may simply require too much exertion. Their squished faces are cute, but they tend to have narrowed nostrils and partially obstructed airways, which make breathing difficult when they work too hard.

Read more: 15 Best Dog Breeds for Active People

Do: Check in with your vet

If you aren’t sure whether your dog’s fit to run, check with your veterinarian. “A vet can let you know if there are any red flags, and can provide advice about what’s safe and healthy for your individual dog in your individual surroundings,” says Aramburu. Even if you’re certain your pup will be fine, give your vet a heads up. The doc may recommend dietary adjustments to go along with the uptick in exercise, for example.

Don’t: Start them too young

Running on hard surfaces can damage a puppy’s joints and bones that haven’t fully formed yet. “You really should wait until a young dog’s growth plates [areas of cartilage near the ends of bones] have started to close, and that time frame really varies by breed and size of dog,” says Sharon Wirant, an animal behaviorist with the ASPCA. “A much smaller dog like a Jack Russell Terrier could probably start going on regular runs earlier than a larger dog, like a Great Dane, whose growth plates will take longer to seal up,” she says. If your puppy is still growing or hasn’t started running with you yet, ask your vet about when it’s safe to start.

Do: Start out slow

“A sedentary person can’t just jump off the couch one day and run 5 miles, and neither can a sedentary dog,” says Aramburu. “Too much too soon increases your dog’s risk of injury, just as it would a human’s.” Find a beginner 5K training plan that will let you and your pooch progress at a safe, healthy pace. Many of these plans combine intervals of walking and jogging, so there’s plenty of time for active recovery and catching your breath.

Read more: 10 Rules for Raising a Healthy Dog

Don’t: Skip your warm up

Before you pick up your pace for any workout, be sure you’ve given yourself—and your dog—at least a few minutes of walking or slow jogging. “Warming up those muscles is a great idea for both you and your dog, and can protect you both against injuries” says Wirant. Another warm-up ritual to make a habit: giving your furball a chance to sniff around and do his business. That means fewer stops for pee and poop breaks once you get moving.

Do: Head for the trails

Running on dirt trails will be easier on your pup’s joins and paws than running on asphalt, says Aramburu. (The same goes for your own joints!) Plus, your dog will enjoy the natural sights, smells, and sounds—perhaps more so than the sidewalk in your neighborhood. Be sure to check at the park entrance or trailhead that dogs are allowed, either on- or off-leash. And before you let your dog off-leash, check into what types of wildlife roam the park. Deer and foxes can both seriously injure or even kill your beloved pet.

Don’t: Forget tick protection

Spending time outdoors with your dog—especially if you’re tackling the trail—may put you both at risk for picking up ticks along the way. Protect yourself by wearing bug spray and long socks, and check with your vet to be sure your pet is up-to-date on tick medication. Then, after any run through woods or long grass, inspect both yourself and your dog for ticks that may have hitched a ride home, and promptly remove any that you find. If you do realize your dog’s been bitten, call your vet for next steps.

Read more: 10 Rules for Raising a Healthy Dog

Do: Teach basic commands

A dog that misbehaves on walks probably isn’t ready to run, says Wirant. “You want to teach them to walk nicely on leash, and break the behaviors of stopping to sniff or marking every tree, or racing ahead and pulling you.”

It’s also important to teach a “Leave It” command, so that your dog will ignore or walk away from tempting items (like trash, roadkill, or sticks) they might come across on a path. Teaching them to “Sit” and “Stay” is also helpful, especially at traffic crossings. If you have trouble training your dog any of these commands, consider an obedience class or dog trainer.

Don’t: Let them pull you

Use a 4- to 6-foot leash; anything longer than that can spell trouble on the jogging path, since you want to train Fido to stay by your side. “Their nose should be even with your knee, and your arm should be straight down and holding their leash right by their collar, at least while they’re getting used to running with you,” says Aramburu. During the teaching stage, it can be helpful to maintain this position during walks as well. “Normally you want to give them more freedom while you’re walking, but it’s fine to keep them really close for a few minutes at a time and then praise them and let the leash out so they get a reward for being good.”

Do: Take water breaks

“Dogs can’t really tell us when they’re thirsty, so I tend to be over cautious with the water,” says Aramburu. She recommends stopping every 10 minutes, at least until you have an idea of how much water your dog needs—and especially in sunny or hot weather. You’ll want to carry a container that your dog can drink from, like a collapsible bowl or a bottle with a special spout for dogs. (And while we’re on the subject: Don’t share your Gatorade!)

Watch: 7 Easy Ways to Drink More Water

Don’t: Run when it’s too hot

Dogs overheat more easily than humans, since they have heavy fur coats and they don’t sweat. So it’s important to be careful when it’s warm out, and to avoid running in midday heat. Longhaired pooches may feel cooler in the summertime after a haircut—but don’t go too short, since that coat also protects against sunburn.

Run in the shade, when possible, and avoid hot blacktop, asphalt, or sand, which can burn dogs’ paws. To test a surface’s temperature, Banfield Pet Hospital recommends placing your hand or a bare foot on it for 10 seconds. If it’s too hot for you, it’s too hot for your pet.

Do: Watch out for their paws

Check your dog’s paws when you get back from a run to make sure they haven’t suffered any cuts or injuries, says Winart. Take extra care in the heat, since their feet are susceptible to burns, and when you’re on the trail, where you’ll come across more rocks, sticks, and uneven terrain.

If you run in the snow, try to avoid roads that have been treated with salt, which can sting dogs’ feet—and then upset their stomachs if they lick their paws once they’re inside. Canine booties or disposable latex boots can shield paws from irritants; if your dog won’t tolerate them, you can also apply petroleum jelly or Musher’s Secret wax to their pads to provide some protection.

Don’t: Ignore warning signs

During and after your run, watch your dog for signs of heatstroke or overexertion, like lethargy, weakness, drooling and dark red gums, vomiting, bloody diarrhea, or panting to the point that he can’t catch his breath. If your dog stops and refuses to continue, don’t force him.

Any time your dog seems overheated, find shade and give him cool or air-temperature water; you may even want to dump some on his head or body. Just don’t let your dog gulp too much water during or after exercise. When they’re hot and thirsty, it is possible for dogs to drink too much, says Wirant, and suffer from potentially fatal water toxicity or from bloat, a dangerous condition in which they swallow a lot of air.

Read more: 14 Surprising Pet Poisoning Dangers

Do: Have a poop plan

As a dog owner you probably know better than to leave puppy poop behind, but still—it’s easy to forget to take waste bags with you when you head out for a run. Not only should you be prepared to pick up after your dog while you’re exercising, you should also know where you’re going to dispose of it, even if that means holding onto it until you find a trash can.

Giving your dog time to “go” before and after your run will reduce your chances of having to make a mid-workout pit stop. “With time, you can absolutely train your dog to urinate and defecate on demand by taking them to the place where they usually go and using a verbal cue,” says Wirant.

Don’t: Give treats too soon

When you finish a tough run and you’re still panting and sweating, you probably wouldn’t have a snack—you’d get sick to your stomach. Same goes for your dog, so hold off on treats until you’ve both calmed down a bit, says Wirant. (Watch out for ice cubes and ice water, too: The extreme temperature change could cause vomiting.) In the meantime, reward your dog by praising him, petting him, and giving him lots of attention. And before you head inside, let him have a few minutes to run around and explore, and to go to the bathroom once more.

Do: Have fun!

Once your dog has mastered the art of running on a leash, you’ll have yourself an always-willing, always-excited exercise partner. Just be sure your dog seems happy. A good sign: he wags his tail and barks when he sees you take out his running leash. Leave him home for a few sweat sessions if he seems stiff or uncomfortable after exercise.

In the long run, working out with your dog can keep unwanted pounds off, extend your life, and help you stay healthy and happy—and same goes for your furry friend. Keep it up!

This article originally appeared on Health.com.

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