Our first breath is instinctual and belly-deep, but as we grow into life, everyday stress and trauma can bring us into the shallows. Mindful breathing can help guide our breath back to its original, healthy rhythm. Both the brain and organs benefit from increased oxygen, and the vagus nerve that connects the two—prompted by changes in the body’s pH levels—releases acetylcholine, a neurotransmitter responsible for lowering heart rate.
Welcome to the digital age, where budding gym rats, former couch potatoes and schedule-challenged fitness freaks are finding new ways to get in shape. These days, virtually anyone with a smartphone or Wi-Fi connection can connect with a yoga video, a spin class or any number of personal exercise experiences.
Some folks are wearing devices that calculate distance and monitor bodily functions—then post it all to social media. Private trainers are offering online workout routines with motivational emails and text messages, while some gyms include online training as an add- (read more…)
When 50 to 60 strangers gather in a barn for their first goat yoga experience, it’s a bit awkward and there’s not much interaction—until the goats come in. “It is an immediate icebreaker, and the place suddenly fills with giggles and laughs,” says Sharon Boustani, whose family runs Gilbertsville Farmhouse, in South New Berlin, New York. There is just something about miniature goats walking around on people’s backs while they do yoga that immediately de-stresses people and makes them downright happy, she adds. (read more…)
Tapping Into the Life Force
Longevity is something most of us strive for, and increasingly, research shows that implementing a consistent yoga practice can be a fruitful investment toward that goal. (read more…)
Cycling for a Healthier Brain
Hopping on a bicycle on a beautiful day or taking a spin class at the gym offers proven cardiovascular benefits like lowering cholesterol and blood pressure. Now, growing research shows that it also packs a powerful punch for brain health. (read more…)
Mother Nature’s Rx for Body and Mind
In 1982, the Japanese government coined the term Shinrin-yoku (“taking in the forest atmosphere” or “forest bathing”) to inspire people to visit and appreciate national parks. Today, that walk in the woods has become a medically recommended activity worldwide for improving immunity, reducing symptoms of anxiety and depression, managing chronic pain and promoting better sleep. (read more…)
Aquatic Workouts for Him
When it comes to chiseling muscles, recovering from injury or reducing stress, men are finding that hitting the pool might even surpass hitting the gym. “Water aerobics is a great form of exercise for men looking to sculpt their bodies, because water offers multidirectional drag (read more…)
Hiking for Health and Happiness
Many of us equate fitness with going to the gym, but a good hike in a natural environment can foster unique benefits for both body and psyche. (read more…)
All the Right Moves
Seasonal allergies plague more than 26 million Americans, according to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America, with numbers on the rise in recent years. This is due in part to a dramatic increase (read more…)
Cross-Country Ski to Explore Winter’s Wonders
While downhill Alpine skiing offers spurts of intense action in-between times spent driving to and from resorts and standing in line at lifts, all that’s needed for Nordic (read more…)
Sure-Fire Ways to Get Fit
Whether skiing on fresh powder on a mountain slope, ice skating or snowshoeing, winter recreation offers new opportunities to get in shape and a specialized focus for fitness. (read more…)
Targeted Exercises Lower Risk of Injury
Weekend athletes, office workers and hobbyists greatly benefit from a balanced array of regular exercises as a preventive measure against injury. In our technological age, repetitive strain injury (RSI) is all too common, and anyone using a computer daily can be at risk. Sedentary lifestyles help set the stage for injury. (read more…)
Exercise Rekindles Desire
Because exercise delivers so many benefits, it’s not surprising that one of them is increased libido. A low sex drive can affect either gender at any age, and contributing factors include hormonal changes, daily stressors and certain prescription drugs.
According to a study published in the Journal of Sexual Medicine, short-duration bursts of exercise work to increase (read more…)
Fusion Styles Offer Fresh Choices
While interest in traditional yoga remains strong, a groundswell of new styles looks to accommodate our changing times. With approaches ranging from yoga designed for curvy women to paddle board yoga, there is something for everyone.
“I can see a definite trend of mixing yoga with all sorts of new activities and passions,” says Sophie Parienti, founder of Yogi Times magazine and (read more…)
Gentle Poses Foster Flexibility
Although media coverage of yoga often highlights advanced yoga poses, the practice is not reserved solely for super-flexible folks. Benefits are available to everyone of any age or physical type.
“Many people assume that yoga requires the ability to be a contortionist. Yoga is an internal process and can meet us wherever we are,” says yoga therapist (read more…)
Quell Insomnia and Nighttime Anxiety
Insomnia plagues millions of Americans, and finding a solution can be difficult when the condition is chronic. Prolonged lack of quality sleep compromises health and sets the stage for depression, high blood pressure, obesity, inflammation, poor memory and even serious risk of heart attack. (read more…)
Exercising Reduces Symptoms
Transitioning through menopause and the years of perimenopausal hormone fluctuation leading up to the finale can be physically and emotionally challenging for many women. Consistently following a healthy diet and positive lifestyle are important, and health researchers, doctors and midlife women can attest to the multidimensional benefits of exercise. Perks may include reduction of menopausal discomfort, better brain function, stronger bones and reversal of estrogen dominance syndrome that can set the stage for fibroids, cystic breasts, cancer, migraines and weight gain.
Studies of 3,500 women in South and Central America have shown that a more active life reduces hot flashes and night sweats. The results, published in Menopause, the journal of the North American Menopause Society, reveal that sedentary individuals often experience increased intensity of related symptoms like insomnia and irritability. Aerobic exercise such as regular walking, hiking, swimming or biking might also help the brain produce neurochemicals that are compromised when estrogen levels drop.
Sue Markovitch, author and owner of Clear Rock Fitness, in Columbus, Ohio, recommends aerobic exercise. “I believe our bodies were made to move. One of the amazing gifts of fitness is it’s truly never too late. When we incorporate daily movement in our lives, all the other systems in the body will work more according to plan. Simply taking a daily walk helps balance brain chemistry,” says Markovitch, who specializes in improving fitness levels for women over 40. “Walking is fitness magic, whether it’s on a treadmill, outside or in the pool. Get your heart rate into an aerobic zone, preferably for 30 to 45 minutes. I’ve heard testimony after testimony of improved sleep, less back or joint pain and better mood.” She also suggests adding a few weekly sessions of resistance training to daily walks.
Most health professionals agree that balance is the key. Jeanne D. Andrus, a menopause expert and author of I Just Want to Be ME Again, in Covington, Louisiana, recommends cardio, resistance training and exercise that increases flexibility and core strength. “For a beginner, this may include two to four days of walking, one to three days of strength training and one to three days of yoga or Pilates, with the goal being three and a half hours of activity per week.”
Of course, all of these need to be at appropriate levels for the woman’s condition and goals,” advises Andrus.
According to studies led by Helen Jones, Ph.D., from the Research Institute for Sport and Exercise Sciences at Liverpool John Moores University, UK, three, 30-to-45-minute aerobic sessions a week reduced hot flashes and yielded the most significant results.
While some conventional approaches suggest vigorous exercise, many holistic professionals caution against extremes. “It’s important to individualize, and in my ongoing research it’s clear that the high-intensity strength and sculpting approach so often promoted and perceived as necessary to maintain shape, weight and health is a myth,” says Dr. Eden Fromberg, an obstetrician, gynecologist and founder of Holistic Gynecology New York, in Manhattan.
Instead, Fromberg recommends an integrated approach to exercise that supports connective tissue and joints. While some forms of exercise including yoga are perceived as gentler than others, she warns against an all-or-nothing strategy, noting, “Intense, deep stretching and joint-straining may cause injury more easily during hormonal transition.”
Andrus concurs, “If high cortisol levels are involved and accompanied by insomnia, stress placed on the body by rigorous exercise will increase these levels and actually lower available energy.” She also advises adopting a non-aggressive approach for osteoporosis. “Weight-bearing exercise is a must, but if bone loss is already present, start much more gradually to ensure that bones are protected.”
Exercise can be more enjoyable than doing chores. Recreational activities such as dancing, biking or hopping on the swings at the playground are fun ways to do something good for both body and spirit.
Menopause can be a time for personal expansion and an invitation for self-care that might have been neglected or postponed. Fromberg believes we can all revitalize our resources at any stage of life, and the years surrounding menopause call for us to tune into ourselves even more. “What seems like a disruption is an opportunity to listen deeply and reimagine and reorganize one’s life on physical, emotional and spiritual levels.”
Marlaina Donato is a freelance writer, author and multimedia artist. Connect at MarlainaDonato.com.