TIME Exercise/Fitness

Why Running May Really Be The Fountain of Youth

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Elderly people who run show similar fitness to 20-year-olds

Older people who run several times a week actually expend the same amount of energy when they walk as a 20-year-old, according to a new study published in the journal PLOS ONE.

Researchers from the University of Colorado Boulder and Humboldt State University picked 30 healthy older volunteer adults around age 69 who either walked or ran regularly for exercise. The participants walked on a treadmill at the speeds 1.6 mph, 2.8 mph, and 3.9 mph while their oxygen consumption and carbon dioxide production were measured.

People who were runners had similar energy intake to a group of young adults in their 20s from a prior study. However, those elderly men and women who regularly walked did not see that same benefit, and expended up to 22% more energy than the younger crowd.

That could be because runners have better muscle efficiency compared to walkers, or because more vigorous exercise may better train the body. But it doesn’t mean that walking doesn’t have its share of health perks. Walkers still experienced a lower risk for ailments like heart disease and depression.

The researchers say more studies should look at the link between exercise and the effects of age on the body. The authors write that it’s unknown whether there is “an intensity threshold of aerobic exercise that is needed to prevent the decline in walking economy.” But that knowledge could be useful in preventing some of the degenerative side effects of old age.

TIME Obesity

You Exercise Less When You Think Life Isn’t Fair

The 'why try' effect gets in the way of weight loss

People who have been the target of weight discrimination—and who believe the practice is widespread—are more likely to give up on exercise than to try to lose weight, according to a new study published in Health Psychology.

The online study of more than 800 Americans specifically looked at whether participants believed in “a just world,” or in this case, the belief that their positive actions will lead to good results. People who experienced weight bias in the past and didn’t believe in a just world were more likely to say they didn’t plan to exercise than those who did believe the world is just. In a separate part of the study, participants primed with anecdotes designed to suggest that the world is unjust were more likely to say they didn’t plan to exercise.

Experiencing discrimination leads some people to adopt a pessimistic view of the world, and they accept negative stereotypes about themselves, including the belief that they’re lazy, said study author Rebecca Pearl. “When someone feels bad about themselves and is applying negative stereotypes to themselves, they give up on their goals,” said Pearl, a researcher at Yale University, referring to a phenomenon known as the “why try” effect.

It’s an area of conflicting research. Some previous studies found that weight discrimination leads to weight loss, while others concluded that weight discrimination discourages exercise. Belief in a just world may be the factor that distinguishes between the two, Pearl said. People who think their exercise will pay off are more likely to try.

Because believing in a just world is key to losing weight, Pearl said that legislation and other public policy efforts could act as a “buffer against loss of sense of fairness.”

“It’s important for doctors to be aware of what people are experiencing, to know that these experiences might have real effects on people’s confidence,” Pearl said.

TIME Mental Health/Psychology

The Most Surprising Tool for Transforming Your Body

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Mindset is the greatest fitness motivator

Want to know one of the best workout secrets I’ve learned? Attitude is everything. You’re either mentally in the game or you may as well be sitting on the sidelines. Not only does your attitude help motivate you, it’s the only tool that guarantees lasting results.

Ask any professional athlete: So much of their training is mental preparation. If pro athletes are not mentally pumped and focused on winning, they’re almost guaranteed to lose. But for those of us who aren’t pro athletes, no amount of encouragement from a trainer—or even an upcoming high school reunion—will help you achieve long-lasting results. But your attitude can.

Attitude, along with a motto, helps maintain a focus that is everlasting. It’s a simple theme that translates from pro sports to even the simplest children’s book. For example, in The Little Engine That Could, a long train gets stuck up a mountain only to be rescued by a much smaller engine who continuously repeats, “I think I can, I think I can.” Yes, the train was small, but mental prowess saved the day.

Here are 6 ways to improve your attitude and help you get in shape and stay there.

Get a motto and use it

Mindset is a powerful tool that can motivate and encourage big changes, along with lasting results. With the aid of a motivating motto, that little train did something none of the larger engines could achieve. The power of words can drive a person to completely change herself.

HEALTH.COM: 24 Motivational Weight Loss and Fitness Quotes

Value your mistakes

Altering your outlook will guarantee results if you stick with it. And if you get derailed from your goals of eating healthy and regularly working out (like many of us do), shrug it off and learn from your mistakes. Treat yourself with the same compassion you would offer a close friend. You’re human, cut yourself some slack—no one is perfect. If you happen to skip a workout or end up eating more pizza than you planned, dust yourself off and start fresh. Tomorrow is a new day.

Celebrate your victories

Remember that it’s important to set realistic goals when beginning a new workout regime. Celebrate the minor triumphs; one day they will become big ones. In my book, Strong Is The New Skinny, I encourage people to start a brag box where you can stash mementos and reminders of your greatest accomplishments (i.e. your first 5K race number). Your very own personalized brag box will be your greatest asset on days when you’re feeling unmotivated or like you’ve fallen off the wagon.

HEALTH.COM: 20 Ways to Stick to Your Workout Routine

Invest in yourself

No one will take care of you like you. So take care of yourself. Imagine the best version of yourself: physically, mentally, and emotionally. Keep that image alive in your mind as you continue to pursue your fitness goals.

Update your strategy

Just because you think of yourself as Xena, Princess Warrior once, won’t mean that every time you look in the mirror, you’ll see a powerful warrior glancing back. Sometimes you need to shake things up and re-strategize. Back in 2013, shortly after having a baby, I received a great opportunity to create and appear in a new Weight Watchers fitness DVD series–an experience I could not pass up. The only problem was I had just had a baby five months prior. I needed to motivate and fast! What did I do? I instantly took action. Besides eating wholesome foods, I changed my outlook, confident I could achieve my goal. The idea is to fake it till you make it, genuinely feeling strong and powerful until you ultimately get there.

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Visualize the new you

Take a minute and imagine how you’d look, move, and feel if you already had the strong, fit body you’ve always wanted. Stand tall, walk, run, or dance with assurance. Adopting a posture that suggests confidence can literally change our feelings, our behavior, and even our hormone levels, according to the research of Harvard Business School social psychologist, Amy Cuddy.

Not only did I improve my posture, but I also posted pre-baby photos all around my house in an effort to motivate myself back into shape. Everywhere I looked, I had visual reminders reaffirming that I, just like the Little Engine that could, was going to make it.

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This article originally appeared on Health.com

TIME Exercise/Fitness

5 Reasons to Exercise That Aren’t Weight Loss

Why you shouldn't give up the gym

Despite conventional calorie-burning wisdom, some people appear to not lose weight when they exercise, says a new study published in The Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research. In fact, some actually gain weight, and it’s not all muscle mass.

The study, by Arizona State University in Phoenix researchers, looked at 81 sedentary, overweight women who exercised three times a week for 30 minutes in a lab. After 12 weeks, the researchers found that some women lost weight while others gained weight. But when they tried to identify what was causing the differences, they couldn’t come to any conclusions. “In reality, most people do not achieve or sustain weight loss, no matter what method they try,” wrote New York Times writer Gretchen Reynolds on Wednesday.

Basically, major bummer. But there are many other reasons to exercise besides trying to shed a few pounds, and they’re equally important for your health:

1. Memory Loss: Chronic inflammation and hormonal imbalances are a couple of factors that can play a part in memory loss, and exercise can help both. Exercise promotes better blood flow through the body, and the brain works better with a healthy blood supply. For example, a 2012 study published in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease showed that people who spent time on a stationary bike had better memory recall than those who were sedentary.

2. Stress: Exercise has long been prescribed as a way to burn off steam and relax. It’s even recommended as a way to fight depression. How? Exercise keeps the brain occupied, and keeps the stress hormone cortisol in check which can lower symptoms for anxiety and restlessness, according to The Exercise Cure, by sports medicine physician Dr. Jordan Metzl. After a rough day at work or before a big exam or interview, even just a walk around the block can ease nerves.

3. Fatigue: It may sound counterintuitive, but working out can actually make you less tired than skipping the gym. A 2007 University of Georgia study showed that sedentary people could lower their fatigue by 65% if they started engaging in regular low intensity exercise. Increasing energy through exercise is also a safer and cheaper alternative to turning to quick fixes like energy drinks.

4. Cardiovascular disease: Getting regular exercise does the heart some good. In a 2012 study, researchers found that people who partook in moderate intensity exercise like brisk walking compared to leisurely walking reduced their chances of developing risk factors for heart disease and diabetes. The effect might be related to exercise’s benefits on lowering inflammation in the body.

5. Lower back pain: Back pain is a very common ailment, and studies have shown that the right kind of exercises like strength training can lower pain. Exercise is also one of the simplest ways to protect your body from future injuries.

 

TIME Exercise/Fitness

5 Ways to Make Yourself Work Out When You Don’t Want To

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Schedule a weekly class, run, walk, hike, or tennis match with your friend, partner, or family member

As the days start to get shorter and the temperatures drop, you may be tempted to slack off on your workout routine. After all, it’s also no longer swimsuit season and we can hide under cozy layers! But it’s so important to keep moving and find something you not only love to do but also can do all year round.

For instance, during the spring and summer, I love to run, bike, swim, play tennis, chase my little guy all over the playground and hike with him in his baby carrier. But as winter approaches, I can fall back on my yoga practice, Pilates workouts, bundled walks, strength training, and skiing. Though, there are still some mornings when I would much rather snuggle in bed.

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Here are some motivational tricks to help you break a sweat because you’ll definitely feel better after working out—and have the body to show for it winter, spring, summer, and fall.

1. Drink a cup of joe

Coffee is an ergogenic aid and can stimulate you to work out and help you last longer during your workout. Also, if you tell yourself, ‘I’m going to have a cup of coffee then lift weights’ you’ll have something set in your head. Try to keep this trick for you AM or midday workouts not later in the evening, though.

HEALTH.COM: The 20 Best Foods to Eat for Breakfast

2. Plan your reward

Promise yourself you can only view the latest episode of “Scandal” or “New Girl” after you log a workout. Or if you’re not a TV watcher, give yourself some sort of reward for working out. I tell myself once I do my yoga practice, then I can surf the web for cute clothes for my baby boy.

3. Make a date

Schedule a weekly class, run, walk, hike, or tennis match with your friend, partner, or family member. I’m part of an Upper West Side Moms stroller walk and talk meet-up group in New York City. I get so much out of meeting other moms and spending an hour working out with them while still being with my son. Find something you can do—even if it’s joining a bowling league—that meets weekly and gets you excited to move.

HEALTH.COM: 20 Ways to Make Exercise a Habit That Lasts

4. Listen to your playlist

It’s like Pavlov’s dog: if you have a great playlist to work out to, once you play it, chances are you’ll get in the mood to break a sweat. Any upbeat music can get you in the mood to move your body. Just turn on Pandora or your favorite artist and dance around your living room or put on your headphones and go outside or to the gym to run.

5. Buy yourself new workout clothes

When I get a new yoga tank or an awesome pair of workout pants, I want to use them! I update my wardrobe each season with clothes that work for the whether. Invest in some fun long sleeve workout tops, get a long pair of running pants that will block the wind, find layers you love, and dress for success. I loved back-to-school shopping as s little girl and couldn’t wait to wear each outfit every day. I channel that same enthusiasm and excitement in to my workout wardrobe and plan some fun, new workout classes to take.

HEALTH.COM: 24 Fat-Burning Ab Exercises (No Crunches!)

This article originally appeared on Health.com

TIME Exercise/Fitness

You Asked: Is Running on a Treadmill as Good as Running Outside?

runnig on a treadmill or outside
Illustration by Peter Oumanski for TIME

Nope—but it can come pretty close with one small tweak

To dedicated runners, running outside gets all the glory. Some purists even eschew headphones (and shoes!). But when talking about whether treadmill running is “the same” as running outdoors, it helps to pinpoint what sort of sameness matters to you.

In terms of the mechanics of your stride, there’s not much difference between running on a treadmill and running on ground, says Dr. Irene Davis, a professor of physical medicine and rehabilitation at Harvard Medical School who has studied the differences between treadmill and over-ground running. “While it feels much different to you, the leg motions and the forces experienced by your body are very similar between these conditions,” Davis says.

But when it comes to your risk for injuries, there may be an important difference. “Most running injuries are overloading injuries that involve muscle, cartilage, bone or tendons wearing down over time,” Davis explains. While there isn’t a lot of good research on this, Davis says those types of injuries probably occur more frequently when you repeat the exact same running motion thousands and thousands of times—as you would on a treadmill or a flat, consistent stretch of pavement.

“You strike the ground 1,000 times per foot, per mile,” she says. And if you’re running on a treadmill or a flat, hard surface, the redundancy of your motion increases your risk for these overuse injuries.

On the other hand, Davis suspects that changing up your stride has a beneficial effect on your injury risk. The more you move in response to curbs, corners, hills or leashed pets, the less likely you are to overburden the same muscle or tendon. Running courses that include lots of slopes, speed changes, and impediments—especially nature trails—are probably safest when it comes to your risk for wear and tear, she hypothesizes.

But what about the effort involved in running outdoors as opposed to on a treadmill? The big factor here is “air resistance,” which you’ll encounter more of outdoors than you will inside, finds a much-cited study from the University of Brighton in the UK. But there’s an easy fix for treadmill runners: By raising the grade of your belt very slightly—just 1% of added incline—you’ll mimic the effects of outdoor air resistance, the study authors conclude.

There may also be a psychological factor to the debate. Lots of research has found that time spent outside, especially in green spaces like woods or parks, offers benefits ranging from improved mood and energy levels to better sleep. And another UK study—this one from the universities of Exeter and Essex—found that runners who ran outdoors in natural environments reported greater feelings of revitalization and wellbeing, and decreases in tension, confusion, anger and depression. (Just don’t forget sun protection.)

All things considered, running outdoors and on trails makes the most sense for maximizing the benefits of running. But if the weather’s bad or a treadmill is your only option, don’t sweat it. It may be an inferior alternative, but only slightly so.

TIME Exercise/Fitness

Here’s Your New Reason to Demand a Treadmill Desk

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Getty Images

The health benefits of anything-but-sitting

Active workstations do more than just burn on-the-clock calories, finds a new study in the Journal of Occupational Health Psychology. Standing desks and treadmill desks might make you healthier while also improving mood and not interfering with work.

Study co-author Michael Sliter, PhD, assistant professor of psychology at Purdue University-Indianapolis, wondered if active workstations were good for anything but caloric expenditure on company time. “That would be of limited value if people actually performed worse, were stressed out when they were doing it, or got bored of it,” he says. So the study assigned 180 people to one of four workstations: a seated desk, standing desk, treadmill desk or cycling desk. After a bit of practice, they did 35 minutes worth of tasks. Researchers measured their performance and how much they liked their workstation in reported levels of boredom, stress, satisfaction and how engaged they were in the task.

MORE: This Hamster Wheel Treadmill Desk Is the Ideal Way to Make Your Coworkers Hate You

“We were able to show that these active workstations have psychological benefits without performance detriment,” says Sliter—for the most part, that is. People at treadmill desks were less bored, less stressed and more satisfied than those at seated, standing or cycling desks. In terms of how well people were able to do their job, everyone performed equally except for the desk cyclists. Turns out, Sisyphean pedaling while whizzing through Excel spreadsheets doesn’t do your work performance or mental health any favors: desk cyclists generally performed worse and were less satisfied, though Sliter says they were probably too uncomfortable to be bored.

“It was kind of funny watching people, because you could actually see their arms moving up and down while they were pedaling,” says Sliter, who walks on his treadmill desk about three hours a day. “We found that you can’t really work very well when you’re also pedaling.”

Being active at work is one way to combat the dreaded sitting-desk syndrome: loads of research shows that seated desks are a ticking time bomb for your health. This new study shows that standing up to sitting at work has more than just physical benefits—it might help your mind, too.

MORE: VIDEO: Walking While Working

TIME Diet/Nutrition

Here’s How to Stop Teens From Drinking Soda

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When kids learn how far they’d have to walk to burn off the calories in a soda, they tend to buy smaller sizes or stop buying it altogether, suggests a new study published in the American Journal of Public Health.

Researchers analyzed more than 3,000 drink purchases by children ages 7 to 18 at stores in low-income Baltimore neighborhoods and found that sugary drinks accounted for 98% of the beverages kids bought. But when researchers put up colorful signs with calorie information, that figure dropped to 89%. The most effective sign was the one that said it would take a five-mile walk to burn off the calories in the drink. Researchers argue that while laws already require beverage manufacturers to post caloric information, calorie numbers may not mean all that much to many consumers. More practical information, including statistics about how long it will take to burn calories, is easier to grasp.

“This is a very low-cost way to get children old enough to make their own purchases to drink fewer sugar-sweetened beverages, and they appear to be effective even after they are removed,” says study author Sara N. Bleich, an associate professor at Johns Hopkins University.

MORE: The Soda Industry’s Promises Mean Nothing

Sugar-sweetened beverages like sodas and energy drinks contribute significantly to a number of public health ailments that harm children, including obesity. In low-income communities the problem is especially rampant: Sugary drink consumption accounts for about 15% of a minority adolescent’s caloric intake, more than twice the recommended quantity. Interventions like this might help decrease that disparity.

“People don’t really understand what it means to say a typical soda has 250 calories,” says Bleich. “If you’re going to give people calorie information, there’s probably a better way to do it.”

Read next: The Soda Industry’s Promises Mean Nothing

TIME Exercise/Fitness

The Drug-Free Way to Fight Depression

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Exercising throughout adulthood can help to keep depression at bay Jupiterimages—Getty Images

A 50-year study shows that physical activity may help fight the disease

Exercise can do a lot of physical good, from making hearts healthy to keeping weight down—and now there’s strong new evidence that it can give a mental boost as well.

In a study appearing in JAMA Psychiatry, researchers from the UK and Canada found that people who were more physically active throughout most of their adult years experienced fewer depressive symptoms than those who were less active. That finding is familiar, but these results are extremely affirming because they involved both a large number of same-aged people—11,000, who were born the same week in March 1958—and a long period of time—50 years.

The volunteers answered questions about how many times they exercised a week on average at four points during the study: when they were 23, 33, 42 and 50 years old. They also took standardized tests that measured depressive symptoms such as depressed mood, fatigue, irritability and anxiety.

At every stage, those who reported more physical activity also had fewer depressive symptoms. What’s more, those who became more active between the recordings also showed fewer signs of depression. That means someone who exercised more each week at 42 than they did at 33 also benefited from having fewer depressive symptoms at 42. In fact, getting more physically active at any age—going from never working out to working out three times a week—lowered the chances of depression by 19% five years later.

The results add to previous studies that found similar associations between exercise and lower depression rates among younger and older people, but this study shows that the connection exists throughout adulthood.

Understanding the link could help doctors better treat both obesity and depression; with some people, depression could be a barrier to becoming physically active, while with others, being overweight could feed into cycle of depression. “Our study suggests that practitioners helping patients to recover from depression might address activity within their treatment plan for lifestyle factors,” the authors write.

TIME Innovation

A $300 Yoga Mat Wants to Teach You a Proper Warrior Pose

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SmartMat, a tech-infused yoga mat developed by three entrepreneurs, is raising thousands of dollars

Can a nearly $300 yoga mat help improve your downward dog? A tech startup is saying yes, it can.

SmartMat, a tech-infused yoga mat developed by three entrepreneurs, is raising thousands of dollars by claiming to be the world’s first mat that can help users achieve that perfect pose with audio and visual cues sent via a smartphone, or tablet.

Here’s how it works: The SmartMat has a layer of thin pressure sensors embedded within a traditional yoga mat — sensors that link with a smartphone or tablet to provide vocal feedback about your poses. The mat will work best if users input some basic details, such as gender, height and weight, as well as arm span measurements and other details that can help the mat get a better sense of the yogi’s body type. SmartMat’s founders claim the mat can be used effectively by both enthusiastic yogis and beginners.

“It isn’t just a matter of plotting points on the mat and saying ‘This is where your feet go for downward dog,’ we are actually in the process of creating a learning engine,” co-founder Neyma Jahan told Fortune. “It learns about the user and tailors its practice to the needs of that user.”

Jahan said the SmartMat won’t replace teachers, but it can help improve the yoga practice.

“Tracking your fitness is part of the equation, having intuitive coaches can never be replaced with the computer and a person’s own drive,” Jahan said. “SmartMat is adding a tool to the tool belt.”

The fancy yoga mat would cost a consumer $297 if they back the Indiegogo campaign today, a price that could increase to as high as $447 as more orders come in. Launched in late September, SmartMat has already raised over $187,000, more than the stated $110,000 goal. The campaign on the crowdfunding website, which has already courted over 700 funders, ends on Oct. 30. SmartMat is hoping to ship the mats in July 2015.

SmartMat’s price is far higher than that of a traditional yoga mat. Yoga mats generally retail for under $40, and even premium-priced mats sold by Lululemon retail for less than $100.

But the SmartMat is a bet that tech-loving athletes are willing to open their wallets for the latest athletic-focused gadget. More than 20 million Americans practice yoga, with millions more involved in the practice internationally, so there are already a lot of consumers that participate in the activity. And athletes are known to embrace fancy and often pricey tech gadgets to enhance their technique and improve their performance — devices such as GPS-enabled watches, and mobile apps such as Nike+ to track their progress and keep tabs on how well they are performing.

The SmartMat isn’t just generating interest in the media, retailers are also hoping to get on board.

“Everybody you can think of has already contacted us,” Jahan said. “Everyone except Apple.”

Jahan founded SmartMat with Sam Marks, who previously worked at an e-cigarette company that was acquired by Lorillard, and former Yahoo executive Maziar Sadri. The entrepreneurs are hopeful the mat is the first of many fitness-focused advancements they hope to bring to market.

“The ultimate goal for our company is to go and create a personalized fitness experience,” Jahan said. “We are measuring output and helping [people] make incremental improvements in their performance.”

This article originally appeared on Fortune.com

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