How to fix health problems with exercise
A good workout can be the best medicine for many common ailments.
Ever wonder why you feel so great after you break a sweat? Turns out, exercise isn't just an effective flab-fighter—it's a remedy for pretty much any troubling health issue you are facing: anxiety, insomnia, back pain—even hot flashes. "When it comes to preventing health problems, exercise is one of the best medicines we have," says David Katz, MD, founding director of the Yale University Prevention Research Center. But some workouts are better than others for healing what ails you. Try these active solutions.
The supporting muscles around your spine become less resilient with age; sitting hunched over a computer all day weakens them further. But the new thinking is that rest isn't usually the answer. "Research has shown that a better fix, in most patients, is strength training," advises Wayne Westcott, PhD, an exercise scientist at Quincy College in Massachusetts. "It can lessen pain by 30 to 80 percent in 10 to 12 weeks." Developing your lower-back, abdominal and oblique muscles takes pressure off your spine and improves range of motion, both preventing and treating pain.
Your fitness Rx: Two or three days a week of strength-training exercises, focusing on major muscle groups (try the chest press, leg press and seated row) and lower-back and ab work (the lower-back-and-ab machine). Aim for 2 to 4 sets of 8 to 16 reps each.
If you've been using willpower to resist those 3 p.m. chocolate urges—and failing miserably—try a little activity instead. Here's why: "In the throes of a craving, your brain is saying 'feed me dopamine!'—that neurotransmitter that taps into the reward center of your brain. You can satisfy the call with carbs—or with exercise," says John Ratey, MD, author of Spark: The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain. Both fixes raise your dopamine levels significantly, but only one will have a favorable effect on your tush.
Your fitness Rx: When you get the vending machine crazies, take 15 minutes and go for a brisk walk, which was shown in recent research to be all it takes to short-circuit food cravings.
Before starting any exercise program consult your physician and a certified fitness professional.
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