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    • What Is the Ideal Sport to Increase Your Life Span?

      By Dr. Mercola For many, exercise is all about losing weight. If that motivates you to get started, that's great, but you should know there are many other benefits to be had as well. For example, exercise helps reduce anxiety,1 support your immune function2 and improves your ability to fall asleep faster.3 Women who exercise have reported fewer symptoms of premenstrual syndrome, including feelings of irritability and being bloated.4 Increased blood flow to your brain improves function almost immediately and helps you to feel more focused after a workout. Regular exercise promotes the growth of new brain cells in your hippocampus, responsible for boosting memory and learning.5 One of the key health benefits of exercise is that it helps normalize your glucose, insulin and leptin levels. This is a crucial factor for optimizing your overall health and preventing chronic disease. Recent research indicates specific exercises may also add more years to your life span than others.6 Study Suggests These Exercises May Increase Longevity An epidemiological study of Danish men and women found playing tennis, badminton and other team sports helped individuals live longer than those who were sedentary. Even more interesting, these same people had a longer life span than those who participated in more solitary activities such as jogging, swimming and cycling.7  A previous study evaluating exercise effects in more than 80,000 British men and women found those who played racquet sports also tended to outlive those who jogged.8 These results triggered the current Danish study, which widened the inquiry to look at a variety of sports and the association those have with premature death. Data was gathered from nearly 8,500 adults as part of the Copenhagen City Heart Study. Limitations of the study included the facts that all who were enrolled were Caucasian, and had no history of heart disease, stroke or cancer. Individuals completed a health and lifestyle questionnaire and were monitored for approximately 25 years. During this time, nearly 4,500 of the participants died.9  The health and lifestyle questionnaires asked participants about their physical activities each week and asked them to designate one workout as their primary form of exercise. Using these answers, researchers looked for associations between longevity and exercise after adjusting for factors such as education, drinking and socioeconomic background. The data indicated a clear correlation between social sports and longevity.10 Although how long individuals spent doing these activities varied, it became apparent the duration did not necessarily affect the longevity of the participants. Coauthor Dr. James O'Keefe, cardiologist at St Luke's Mid America Heart Institute, explained tennis likely took the top spot as it is intensely interactive. In other words, people spent time talking with each other during the activity. The study did find activities normally enjoyed alone, such as running, weightlifting and swimming, still extended life and offered other health benefits. However, O'Keefe recommended for optimal benefit you may want to consider supplementing your workout with other activities that foster a social connection. Benefits of Social Interactions Research data have demonstrated emotional and physical health are inextricably linked, and there are significant health risks to social isolation. A study published in BMJ Heart found isolated and lonely individuals were at a significantly increased risk of heart attack and stroke. O'Keefe explained:11 "For both mental and physical well-being and longevity, we're understanding that our social connections are probably the single-most important feature of living a long, healthy, happy life. If you're interested in exercising for health and longevity and well-being, perhaps the most important feature of your exercise regimen is that it should involve a playdate." Another study published in Heart found social isolation, but not loneliness, was associated with an increased risk of death in people with a history of heart disease.12 Having a support system appeared to mitigate some factors that led to a higher risk. While not surprising, the researchers found the effects of isolation and loneliness may be compounded by other traits commonly found among those who enjoyed their own company. To further explore this the researchers surveyed almost 480,000 adults in the U.K. and measured health metrics, including height, weight, body mass index and grip strength.13 The participants were then tracked for seven years. Isolation was associated with a 43 percent higher risk of first-time heart attack and a 39 percent higher risk of first-time stroke. Loneliness was associated with similar results. However, after accounting for biological, health and socioeconomic factors, the increased risk of heart attack and stroke only ranged between 4 percent and 7 percent for loneliness and isolation. Another study evaluating the mental health benefits of exercise found an interesting pattern.14 Those who exercised nearly 45 minutes per session experienced better mental health than those who favored marathon workouts. Sweating three to five times a week had a lower number of poor mental health days than either no exercise or working out more than five times a week, leading the researchers to conclude exercise for two to six hours a week may be the sweet spot for mental health.15 Research Indicates Full Body Workouts May Offer Increased Benefits Limitations to the featured study made it difficult for researchers to generalize the results. O'Keefe pointed out how and why some sports may add additional years more than others is difficult to determine from an observational study.16 Although little of the exercise in this study was heavily intense, O'Keefe believes the different physical demands in some sports could play a role. However, income and socioeconomic factors likely played a role in this study as well, as those who have sufficient money and leisure time to play tennis may also have the means to evaluate and use a variety of health care options. Yet another factor may be that racket sports are full-body workouts, and using your arms and legs makes your heart work harder. Cycling and jogging, two of the other sports studied in the featured research, primarily use your lower body and some core muscles. Additionally, racket sports often require intense bursts of activity, much like a high-intensity interval training workout. As noted by the University of Rochester Medical Center:17 "Racquet sports alternate bursts of high-intensity exercise while you score points, with brief rest periods while you pick up the ball and serve. This stop-and-start activity is similar to interval training. Playing racquet sports, or any active sport, [three] hours a week can cut your risk of developing heart disease and lower your blood pressure, according to the Cleveland Clinic Foundation. One key to getting a good aerobic workout in tennis or racquetball is to keep your rest periods brief. Your heart will continue to work at an aerobic level, but without the sustained stress." There Is an Exercise 'Sweet Spot' Where You Reap the Greatest Reward While the percentage of adults over 18 who meet the physical activity guidelines for both aerobic and muscle-strengthening activity only reaches 21 percent,18 there are those who meet and exceed those guidelines on a routine basis. But, like most things in life, too much of a good thing can do harm. The current guidelines recommend at least 150 minutes per week of moderate physical activity or 75 minutes of vigorous physical activity. The guidelines do not list an upper limit. High intensity exercise for long periods of time may increase the risk of injury and heart issues, but no clearly defined guidelines exist for what constitutes "too much" exercise. Research has demonstrated chronic training for and competing in extreme events, such as marathons and ultramarathons and very long-distance bike races, may trigger negative cardiovascular effects.19 In one study, those who exercised beyond 60 minutes saw a decrease in their antioxidant levels, along with an increase in arterial stiffening. In another study, lifelong endurance athletes had a very high rate of myocardial fibrosis (stiffening of the heart muscle). This hardening of the heart cells may play a role in precipitating sudden cardiac arrest or inducing an irregular heartbeat. In a British study20 of more than a million healthy middle-aged women, researchers found those who exercised two to six times a week had the lowest cardiovascular risk compared to those who exercised either rarely or every day. Importance of Brief, Intense Activity for Longevity and Mitochondrial Health Similar results were found in a Danish study21 comparing the mortality rates of joggers against sedentary individuals. Those who did light to moderate running were less likely to die than nonexercisers or those who ran a fast pace for more than 2.5 hours per week. A heavy exercise load each week can depress your immune system and increase inflammatory processes, potentially leading to increased risk of coronary changes and illness. Exercise intensity also plays an important role in determining how much exercise is enough. Data22 found engaging in occasional vigorous exercise leads to additional reductions in the risk of premature death. When you include brief bursts of high-intensity activity, you may considerably slash the amount of workout time needed to enjoy the benefits. These types of workouts, known as high-intensity interval training (HIIT), lead to immediate changes in your body, including reprogramming your muscles for strength, and stimulating your fast-twitch muscle fibers, the latter of which increases production of human growth hormone. HIIT also: Triggers mitochondrial biogenesis, which is important for longevity Alters mitochondrial enzyme content and activity Increases cellular energy production Decreases your risk of chronic disease Slows the aging process23 Use a Variety of Exercises, Including the Nitric Oxide Dump Recent research has suggested working out smarter, not harder, may reap greater rewards in the long run. Short bursts of intense activity are safer and more effective than conventional cardiovascular workouts for your heart, general health, weight loss and overall fitness. The bonus is you are able to work out efficiently and effectively in far less time. The American College of Sports Medicine recommends at least 20 minutes of vigorous activity three times a week,24 and notes HIIT workouts tend to burn more calories than traditional workouts25 as your body continues to burn calories after your workout has finished. Another benefit to HIIT is the variety of workouts you can use to accomplish the goal. If you're new to HIIT, try my Peak Fitness method using 30 seconds of maximum effort followed by 90 seconds of recuperation, repeated eight times. With a four-minute warm up, the total workout takes about 20 minutes. It is important to remember HIIT is only one facet of a well-rounded program that should incorporate physical activities you enjoy, flexibility and strength training. By making simple tweaks to your fitness program, you can turn a fun game of tennis with a friend into a moderate to vigorous workout that enhances your life and longevity. Another daily option you may consider to improve your mitochondrial health is the nitric oxide dump workout, which stimulates the release of nitric oxide and slows the aging process. The exercise takes just three to four minutes, one to three times a day. For a demonstration, see the video below. You can also read more about it in my previous article, "Incorporate the Nitric Oxide Dump." Dr. Mercola

    • 12 Foods to Eat to Avoid Sore Muscles

      By Dr. Mercola The reality of sore muscles (or the fear of them) is a common source of discouragement for anyone new to exercise and those desiring to increase the intensity of their workout. While it is perfectly normal to experience a condition called delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS) when taking up a new type or intensity of exercise, the truth is you may be confronted with DOMS even if you exercise regularly. Becoming familiar with DOMS and food-based methods to speed up healing may encourage you to stick with your workout program even when faced with muscle soreness and stiffness. One way to support your body post workout is to consume particular foods known to promote muscle recovery and growth. Let's take a look at 12 of the best foods for sore muscles and two substances you should avoid when exercising. What Causes Post-Exercise Soreness? You may experience muscle stiffness after starting a new exercise program, adding a new exercise to your current program or increasing the intensity and duration of your routine. This stiffness is often accompanied by discomfort and pain and also may involve cramping. If you've been exercising for any length of time, you may already know working out causes microtears in your muscles that contribute to DOMS. Even though the microtears cause muscle soreness and stiffness that can be uncomfortable a day or two after your workout, the good news is you gain muscle mass and strength when those fibers rebuild. Any movement may result in DOMS discomfort, but jogging, pushups, squats and weightlifting are more commonly associated with the condition. You are likely to notice DOMS-related effects when performing routine activities such as getting out of bed, putting on your shoes or doing other tasks that require bending and lifting. Fortunately, stiffness associated with exercise is not usually a cause for concern and can be treated at home. It is quite simply the cost of strengthening and toning your muscles. Notably, the sensation of DOMS discomfort occurs more frequently after you perform new eccentric physical activity.1 By way of explanation, when your muscles move through an exercise, they make both concentric and eccentric movements. During a concentric movement the load being lifted is less than your muscle's maximum force. Each contraction shortens your muscle, such as when you raise a weight while doing a bicep curl. On the other hand, eccentric muscle contractions happen when the load on your muscle increases to a point at which the external force on your muscle is greater than the force it can generate. Even though your muscle may be fully activated, it is forced to lengthen due to the high external load. Think of the same bicep curl: As your arm is extending, the muscle is lengthening yet is still activated to control the extension. This is eccentric motion and it causes structural disruption in your muscle fibers, microtears and the subsequent muscle pain and soreness. 12 Foods You Can Eat to Soothe Sore Muscles Because muscle soreness is a natural part of working out, you can help your body recover faster by complementing your workout with the right foods. Assuming you can tolerate them, below are 12 foods you can eat to help soothe tired, aching muscles:2,3 Cacao — If you are a chocolate lover, you'll be happy to know adding some cacao nibs to your postworkout smoothie may help take the edge off aching muscles. Registered dietitian and nutritionist Kristen Carlucci, wellness coach for the more than 1,600 employees of New York City-based Bloomberg, said, "Cacao has high levels of antioxidants, magnesium and B vitamins to reduce stress in our bodies related to exercise, balance electrolytes and boost energy levels."4 Research suggests the antioxidants (flavanols) in cacao are useful to boost the production of nitrous oxide in your body.5 Nitrous oxide causes your blood vessel walls to relax and open, thereby lowering your blood pressure. In addition to cacao, arugula and other leafy greens are great sources of healthy nitrates. Coffee — A small study involving college-aged females found a moderate dose of caffeine — about 2 cups of coffee — reduced postworkout pain by 26 percent for eccentric exercise and 48 percent for exercise involving isometric contractions.6 A JAMA review of 30 clinical studies involving more than 10,000 patients over a 20-year period validated caffeine as an "analgesic adjuvant."7 Researchers found giving caffeine along with pain-relieving pharmaceuticals resulted in 40 percent fewer drugs being needed to achieve the same level of pain relief. Be sure to choose organic fair trade coffee. Eggs — Because protein is the essential building block of muscles, it makes sense that researchers have found adding a source of protein like eggs to your postworkout eating plan may help reduce your risk of DOMS. Just be sure that the eggs are organic and pastured (not pasteurized). A study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition suggests consuming protein along with other nutrients in whole food sources may be more effective at sparking muscle growth than eating protein alone.8 Specifically, the test group consumed three whole eggs, totaling 18 g of protein and 17 g of fat. By the way, I recommend you eat only organic free-range eggs. The study authors stated:9 "We show that the ingestion of whole eggs immediately after resistance exercise resulted in greater stimulation of myofibrillar protein synthesis than did the ingestion of egg whites … Our data indicate the ingestion of nutrient- and protein-dense foods differentially stimulates muscle anabolism compared with protein-dense foods." Ginger and cinnamon — Iranian research involving 60 healthy female taekwondo athletes, ages 13 to 25 years, underscores the anti-inflammatory value of dietary ginger and cinnamon for postworkout muscle soreness.10 The women were randomly categorized into three groups — receiving 3 g of either cinnamon, ginger or a placebo daily for six weeks — with muscle soreness evaluated at the beginning and end of the study. The study authors noted a decrease in muscle soreness in the cinnamon and ginger groups. Green tea — About green tea, which will serve you best if you choose an organic brand, Carlucci comments, "Green tea is abundant in anti-inflammatory antioxidants making it the ideal … postworkout drink to prevent muscle and cell damage related to exercise. It also helps athletes stay hydrated, which is vital for training and recovery."11 A 2018 Brazilian study published in the journal Physiology & Behavior12 evaluated the effect of green tea during a 15-day study involving 20 nontrained men who performed sessions of triceps exercises to induce DOMS. Using a visual scale and blood samples, researchers evaluated the effect of green tea on muscle soreness, muscle damage and oxidative stress, arriving at a mixed result. They said:13 "[Green tea extract] supplementation reduced muscle damage but muscle soreness did not change. Plasma oxidative damage marker and antioxidant status did not show an effect of supplementation. As a conclusion, green tea extract supplementation did not reduce the sensation of DOMS, but reduces the marker of muscle damage after exercise. [This study] suggests green tea extract supplementation has positive effects on muscle recovery after strenuous exercise." Manuka honey — Manuka honey has a long history of use as an anti-inflammatory agent. This prized (and pricy) monofloral honey originates from the nectar of the Manuka bush that is found in New Zealand. Manuka honey is thicker than regular honey and has a distinctive flavor. "Manuka honey is a potent anti-inflammatory that helps to suppress exercise-induced inflammation in the body," Carlucci asserts. "It's also rich in carbohydrates, which are needed to refill glycogen stores and deliver protein to your muscles."14 Keep in mind there are many fake Manuka honeys on the market so be sure to research the brands and check the ingredient labels carefully. Nuts and seeds — As a healthy source of plant-based omega-3 fatty acids, which fight inflammation, organic nuts and seeds also provide protein for muscle synthesis and growth, electrolytes to promote hydration and zinc to boost immunity, notes Carlucci.15 According to U.S. News & World Report health contributor Brendan Brazier, plant-based nutrition expert and author of the "Thrive" book series, foods with higher carbs and lower protein, such as a handful of almonds and dried fruit like raisins, will help replenish your glycogen stores after a workout. (Be mindful, dried fruit contains extremely high amounts of fructose, so eat it in moderation.) Brazier says:16 "As you work out, your body starts to deplete the levels of glucose in your blood, and must turn to glycogen — carbs stored in your liver and muscle tissue — to fuel your movement. A 4-to-1 carb-to-protein snack speeds the uptake of glycogen back into your muscles and initiates muscle building." Wild salmon — A great source of anti-inflammatory animal-based omega-3 fats, antioxidants and muscle-building protein is wild Alaskan salmon. Some consider salmon to be an ideal postworkout food because research on omega-3 consumption in athletes suggests it can help prevent DOMS and inflammation.17,18 States Carlucci, "Salmon contains inflammation-fighting omega-3 fatty acids, plus it's packed with lean protein — a key component for muscle restoration and building. [M]ake sure to eat protein within 45 minutes after your workout for adequate recovery and strength."19 Always choose wild-caught and avoid all farmed salmon. Spinach — Spinach has long been recognized as an antioxidant powerhouse known to fight free radical damage in your body. Not only can spinach protect you from serious illnesses like cancer and heart disease, suggests Carlucci, but this healthy green can also help you rebound after strenuous exercise due to its nitrate content.20  Spinach also contains magnesium, which helps maintain normal muscle and nerve function, among other benefits. Be sure to choose organic or, better yet, grow your own spinach. Sweet potatoes or yams — Because they are starchy, carb-rich vegetables, eating organic sweet potatoes or yams after intense exercise is a great way to replenish your glycogen stores. In addition, sweet potatoes and yams have a low glycemic index, meaning they release sugars into your bloodstream slowly, which will help you maintain energy. Also, they are great sources of beta carotene and vitamin C — antioxidants that support your immune system and help reduce oxidative stress. Tart cherries — Tart cherries have been shown to improve athletic performance, endurance and recovery, as well as reduce post-exercise inflammation and pain.21,22 Tart cherries and cherry juice also help relieve and prevent arthritis and gout.23 The same anthocyanins and antioxidants that help with this also are believed to relieve cardiovascular disease and diabetes.24 However, it's important to remember that 1 cup of cherries has 13.6 grams of sugar in it, so it's important not to overindulge.25 Turmeric — Research26,27 on the golden spice turmeric's active ingredient — the powerful antioxidant curcumin — suggests a curcumin supplement can help reduce DOMS-related pain, lower your risk of injury and improve muscle performance recovery. Keep in mind curcumin from turmeric is poorly absorbed, which means if you add turmeric to your food, you'll be absorbing around 1 percent curcumin. To increase your intake you can: • Boil the powder — Boil 1 tablespoon of turmeric in a quart of water for 10 minutes to create a 12 percent solution that you must consume right away to ensure its effectiveness • Make a microemulsion — Mix 1 tablespoon of raw turmeric powder with two egg yolks and 2 teaspoons of melted coconut oil and drink it immediately • Purchase a high-quality curcumin supplement — Look for an extract containing 100 percent certified organic ingredients with at least 95 percent curcuminoids. Choose a sustained-release formula that is free of additives and fillers. Bodybuilding.com recommends doses of 3 to 4 grams daily, noting the addition of piperine in curcumin supplements can boost its bioavailability.28 With such a generous selection of healthy foods from which to choose when nourishing your body postworkout, I'll close by mentioning two items you most certainly want to avoid: alcohol29 and sugar. They are two inflammatory substances that do not combine well with exercise or healthy living. While your body needs carbs during the recovery phase, I recommend you choose foods containing both carbs and protein from one or more of the whole food sources mentioned above. By choosing the right foods to help your body recover after an intense workout, you will likely feel better and experience less muscle soreness — factors that may encourage you to exercise more often. Dr. Mercola

    • 8 Fitness 'Tips' That Are Doing More Harm Than Good

      By Dr. Mercola If you've been working out for any length of time or simply following the trends in exercise, you know there is no shortage of conflicting and confusing advice. It can be a struggle to separate fitness fact from fiction. An article published in Business Insider1 sought to address 15 of the biggest exercise myths. Below I share my opinions about eight of these misconceptions. As always, my goal is to provide you with useful information to help you take control of your health. Because you will likely spend a few hours each week exercising, I also want to ensure you get the most enjoyment and benefit from your workouts. Myth No. 1: Exercise Doesn't Help Counter the Negative Effects of Aging Truth: Given its many overall benefits, regular exercise is clearly able to greatly help counteract some of the negative effects of aging, and regardless of your age, as demonstrated in the video above, you're never too old to begin an exercise program. A study published in the Journal of the American Heart Association2 involving 1,622 men and women, ages 60 to 64, who wore heart-rate monitors for five days, suggests exercise is important for your heart health, especially as you age. Study author Ahmed Elhakeem, Ph.D., senior research associate in epidemiology at Bristol Medical School at the U.K.'s University of Bristol, said:3 "The 60- to 64-age range represents an important transition between work and retirement, when lifestyle behaviors tend to change. It may, therefore, be an opportunity to promote increased physical activity. In addition, cardiovascular disease risk is higher in older adults. It's important to understand how activity might influence risk in this age group. We found it's important to replace time spent sedentary with any intensity level of activity." Elhakeem and his colleagues found seniors who exercised more had lower levels of heart disease-related biomarkers. The markers, which included C‐reactive protein, interleukin‐6 (IL-6) and leptin, among others, were extracted from fasting blood samples. "We focused on these atherosclerosis biomarkers [because] they are less studied and have been shown to predict [the] risk of cardiovascular events and death," Elhakeem noted.4 The researchers classified physical activity as either light — such as gardening, golf, slow walking or stretching — or moderate-to-vigorous, which included bicycling, brisk walking, dancing, lawn mowing, tennis or vacuuming. Overall, the participants who undertook more activity had lower levels of the negative biomarkers. The study authors stated, "Greater light physical activity and moderate‐to‐vigorous intensity physical activity and less sedentary time in early old age were associated with more favorable cardiovascular biomarker profiles."5 Myth No. 2: A Sluggish Metabolism Is the Main Trigger of Weight Gain as You Age Truth: Age-related weight gain has far more to do with your diet and activity level than your metabolism and one of the best ways to avoid age-related weight gain is to exercise regularly. That said, if you think your metabolism is stalled, you might consider inflammation as a contributing factor. After all, weight gain is often a sign of chronic low-level inflammation and is affected by the foods you eat. Keep in mind, so-called "healthy" foods like beans, CAFO (concentrated animal feeding operation) dairy, grains, legumes, nuts and seeds can cause inflammation. Unidentified food sensitivities can push you toward insulin and leptin resistance, which will seriously hamper your metabolism, digestion and other areas of health. When you have a food sensitivity or allergy, your body feels "attacked" rather than nourished by that food, which causes it to circulate inflammatory molecules. In addition to issues with insulin and leptin, this state is often accompanied by an imbalance in the microorganisms in your digestive tract, also known as gut dysbiosis. Beyond food allergies and intolerances, you can develop inflammation through environmental toxins, overexercising, poor sleep, stress and other factors. Foods most likely to be proinflammatory are junk foods and highly processed foods, including damaged omega-6 oils, grains, foods high in sugar and those that are genetically engineered. If you need dietary guidance, check out my nutrition plan. I highly recommend your exercise program include daily walking, high-intensity training, strength training, stretching and yoga. All of these activities can be modified according to your ability, age and any physical limitations. Myth No. 3: The Optimal Time to Work Out Is First Thing in the Morning Truth: Regardless of what works best for others, the best time for you to exercise hinges on your personal choice. I suggest you choose the time of day that allows sufficient time for a quality workout and gives you the best chance of exercising regularly. If you prefer morning exercise, you'll appreciate knowing research has shown exercising on an empty stomach is useful for preventing both weight gain and insulin resistance, which is a hallmark of countless chronic diseases. Exercising early in the day leaves less chance for other obligations to crowd out your workout and also is a good companion to intermittent fasting. Afternoon exercise has been shown to help regulate circadian rhythms, at least in one study involving lab mice.6 Some studies suggest that exercising late in the afternoon might be best for many from a hormonal perspective, especially if doing strength training. However, it is best, just like eating, to avoid exercise at least three hours before bed. Disrupted circadian rhythms can increase your risk of diabetes, high blood pressure, memory loss, mood disorders and obesity, among other conditions. From a circadian point of view, it makes sense to see higher benefits from afternoon exercise because circadian rhythms control your body temperature, which has an impact on your workout. Your body temperature tends to be a degree or two warmer in the afternoon than in the morning, resulting in better muscle performance and decreased risk of injury. You are also generally more alert in the afternoon. Plus, if you tend to feel sluggish in the early or midafternoon, going to the gym might be a good way to push through fatigue and sleepiness. Although it's commonly known exercising at night can increase your adrenaline levels, body temperature and heart rate, thereby potentially making it difficult to fall asleep, some suggest nighttime exercise actually helps them sleep better. A study published in 2011 found people who exercised vigorously for 35 minutes about two hours before bed slept just as well on exercise nights as on nights they did not exercise.7 A poll by the National Sleep Foundation found 83 percent of the people who worked out vigorously said they slept better on nights they exercised (even late at night) than nights they did not.8 As you can see, there are a variety of opinions about the time of day best suited for exercise. One thing is certain, however: Any exercise is better than none, regardless of when you do it. The most important thing is to choose a convenient time of day so exercise becomes a habit. Myth No. 4: Working Out Turns Fat Into Muscle Truth: You can't turn fat into muscle but you can use exercise to physically transform your body, which primarily removes fat through your lungs as you exhale. Physiologically speaking, fat and muscle are two different tissues. Adipose (fatty) tissue is found under your skin, around your internal organs and sandwiched between your muscles. Muscle tissue, which is defined in three categories — striated (banded), smooth and cardiac — is found throughout your body. The vast majority of dietitians, doctors and personal trainers believe when you burn fat during exercise, it is being used up as fuel for energy or heat. Some believe fat is excreted through urine or feces, while others think it is somehow transformed into muscle. All of these ideas are to some degree incorrect, asserts physicist Ruben Meerman and professor Andrew Brown, a biochemist specializing in lipids, both of whom hail from the school of biotechnology and biomolecular sciences at the University of New South Wales in Sydney. The reality is that exercise will help you reduce fat levels and also increase your muscle mass, but it does this by decreasing and increasing those tissues directly, not converting one to the other. In a 2014 study published in BMJ, Meerman and Brown state, "Considering the soaring overweight and obesity rates and strong interest in this topic, there is surprising ignorance and confusion about the metabolic process of weight loss."9 According to their calculations, your lungs are the primary excretory organ for fat. When you lose weight, you exhale 84 percent of the lost fat in the form of carbon dioxide, while the remaining 16 percent is excreted as water via your bodily fluids. If you want to build muscle, check out my article, "How Strength Training Changes Your Body for Good." Myth No. 5: Exercise Is the Single Best Way to Lose Weight Truth: When trying to lose weight, you'll want to avoid the common trap of thinking you can simply "work off" whatever you eat. Experts agree the first step toward slimming down almost always starts with your diet. By making even a few small changes to your eating habits, you can begin to lose weight. When making dietary changes, the best strategy is to focus on one area at a time. You can always add another area later. Below are six tips to help you jump-start diet-based weight loss: Time Your Food — Perhaps the most powerful strategy is to decrease your eating window to six to eight hours making sure you don't eat at least three hours before bed time. This is a form of intermittent fasting or time restricted eating we call Peak Fasting. Avoid drinking fruit juice and soda, and most especially diet soda — Drinking your calories is a bad idea, and fruit juice and soda are loaded with sugar. Within 20 minutes of drinking soda, your blood sugar spikes and your liver responds by turning massive amounts of sugar into fat. A high sugar intake contributes not only to weight gain, but also diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease and premature aging. Drinking diet soda also has been positively linked to weight gain. Research indicates your brain can tell the difference between real and artificial sugar, which means consuming artificial sweeteners increases your craving for the real thing and therefore may lead to overeating and weight gain. Eat plenty of organic vegetables — One of the best ways to improve your health is to make sure you're eating plenty of fresh, organic vegetables. If possible, grow your own or source them locally and consume the majority of them raw. A great way to boost your vegetable intake is to juice them. I highly recommend juicing organic vegetables as a means of restoring or improving your health. Learn more about the benefits of juicing. Limit fructose from your diet — No matter how hard you may try to rationalize sugar as part of a healthy diet, the truth is it only serves to damage your health. Americans love sugar, and the average adult consumes about 20 teaspoons of added sugar every day. For optimal health, limit your fructose intake to less than 25 grams (g) per day if you are in good health and to less than 15 g per day if you are dealing with a serious illness or chronic disease. Be sure to include fructose from whole, raw fruit and berries within these limits. Keep eating out to a minimum — The reason your favorite restaurant foods often taste better than your home-cooked meals is because they most likely are loaded with artificial flavors, hydrogenated fats and sugar. Given the reality most restaurants — even some pricy, five-star establishments — rely on frozen, precut and precooked foods, the chances are good your restaurant meal is highly processed and nutritionally inferior to anything you can make at home using fresh, organic ingredients. Plan your meals — Taking time to plan your meals, which may include taking lunches to work or a healthy snack to get you through your evening commute, is vital to your weight-loss success. You have a better chance of making healthy changes if you work from a weekly meal plan. Your meal plan must be backed up by a strong commitment to grocery shopping and food preparation. While it takes considerable time and effort to eat healthy, you won't regret the positive results you'll see in terms of weight loss and other areas of health and well-being. Stay away from fast foods and processed foods — Avoid fast food and processed food if you value your health. It is loaded with chemicals, sodium, added sugar and other toxins. The cheap price of fast food is enabled somewhat by the use of subpar meat from animals raised in CAFOs, where they receive heavy doses of antibiotics and a diet of genetically engineered grains while being subjected to illness and overcrowding. Myth No. 6: It Takes a Few Weeks to Get 'Out of Shape' Truth: Your muscle tissue can start to break down inside of the first week you stop getting regular exercise, and the declines continue from there. If you need one motivator to keep exercising, this might be it. It's a horrible feeling to lose muscle tone and the other gains you realized when you were working out regularly. For that reason, aside from illness and emergency situations, I advise you to not allow anything to come between you and your workout. "If you stop training, you actually do get noticeable deconditioning, or the beginnings of deconditioning, with as little as seven days of complete rest," states Shawn Arent, Ph.D., director of the Center for Health and Human Performance at Rutgers University. "It very much is an issue of 'use it or lose it'."10 Myth No. 7: Games and Puzzles Are the Best Workout for Your Brain Truth: While mental games and puzzles have some effect on your brain, physical exercise is still among the best ways to ensure a healthy brain. In fact, there's ample evidence showing physical exercise, especially strength training, is vitally important for healthy brain and nervous system function. A number of studies have linked leg strength to various cognitive benefits. A 2018 study published in Frontiers in Neuroscience11 indicates your neurological health is as dependent on signals from your large leg muscles as it is on signals from your brain to your muscles. According to Medical News Today, "The main takeaway of the new findings is that leg exercise — weight-bearing exercise, in particular — 'tells' the brain to produce healthy neurons, which are key for … [coping] with stress and life changes."12 The researchers called out climbing stairs, dancing, hiking, tennis, walking and weightlifting as healthy examples of weight-bearing exercise. Study author Raffaella Adami, Ph.D, professor and researcher in the department of health science at Italy's University of Milan, said: "It is no accident we are meant to be active: to walk, run, crouch to sit and use our leg muscles to lift things. Our study supports the notion that people who are unable to do load-bearing exercises — such as patients who are bedridden, or even astronauts on extended travel — not only lose muscle mass, but their body chemistry is altered at the cellular level and even their nervous system is adversely impacted." Myth No. 8: Your BMI Is an Accurate Measure of Your Overall Health Truth: Instead of using body mass index (BMI), experts suggest measuring your waistline — using either your waist-to-hip or height-to-waist ratio — is a more accurate measure of your overall health. BMI is an outdated metric now primarily used by insurance companies to set premiums — charging those struggling with obesity higher rates than those who possess average BMIs. A primary reason why BMI is a flawed tool relates to its use of weight as a measurement of your disease risk. In reality, a high percentage of body fat is correlated to a higher risk of disease. Because your weight varies according to the density of your bone structure, you may weigh more if you are big-boned but not necessarily have a higher proportion of body fat than normal. Two tests designed to give you a far better idea of your body composition and potential health risk are your: Waist-to-hip ratio (demonstrated in the video above) Height-to-waist ratio Dr. Mercola

    • Why Are Obstacle Course Races so Popular?

      By Dr. Mercola Exercise and running helps you live longer, but running more is not necessarily better. Increasingly, experts are moving away from recommendations suggesting you need just 30 to 60 minutes of moderate daily activity. Data now demonstrate high-intensity interval training may be far more beneficial for most, and when you exercise intensely, you only need to do it for a fraction of the time. A large observational study1 gathered data from more than 55,000 adults and found runners experienced a significantly reduced risk of death from all causes compared to those who did not run. Although the study was observational and could not conclusively prove running was responsible for these benefits, it is in line with a lot of other research showing exercise in general is an excellent life extension strategy. That said, studies have also demonstrated that excessive exercise can backfire. In the past decade the number of individuals who complete marathons has declined.2 Although a marathon has been the ultimate competition for amateur endurance athletes, research demonstrating the negative effects of long-distance events,3 combined with a 26.2-mile solitary endeavor, may have triggered declining numbers. For those who get bored easily, a new type of race has emerged, requiring feats of strength and dexterity designed not only for the athlete, but the spectator as well. Running Industry Takes a Hit After peaking at 19 million finishes in 2013,4 the number of people participating in marathons fell to just over 17 million in 2016. Just 3 percent of those running road races completed a marathon in 2016. High fees, competition from other fitness activities and increasing race options have shrunk the field in many races. Richard Harshbarger, chief executive of Running USA, believes the sport may have gotten too big too quickly.5 Between 1990 and 2013, road races experienced a 300 percent growth with much of the boom occurring between 2008 and 2013. Harshbarger believes supply has outstripped demand and may account for some of the decline in participation. Businesses that have grown up around the running boom have also suffered. Book and magazine publications, running stores and apparel retailers have experienced a decline in income and some have filed for bankruptcy. Harshbarger commented:6 "Events that aren't professionally managed or professionally produced are going away, and then those left in the market are forced to get more creative. Now everyone's got bands on the course and beer at the finish line, so what's new?" Studio classes such as CrossFit and yoga have taken a bite out of the running industry as well. Phil Stewart, president of Road Race Management, points out rising fees for local and national races rose quickly, causing 20 percent of runners in 2017 to reduce the number of races they planned to participate in this year. This same reduction in participation is being experienced by the businesses supporting the running industry. Stewart commented:7 "Back when you could enter a road race for $10 and you could enter a marathon for $25, the sport really had no appeal or very little appeal for for-profit businesses. But then we moved into an era where people would pay $85 for a half and $135 for a marathon. That's when you really had all the for-profit groups, and it just transformed the model." Fun in the Mud Obstacle Course Races During the same period, obstacle course races enjoyed a rise in participation. Tough Mudder and Spartan Race Inc. are two of the more popular.8 Each was founded in 2010 in response to participants looking for a more challenging and varied course. Tough Mudder claims 2 million total participants and Spartan reports 5 million. This short video gives you a demonstration of a Tough Mudder race. Spartan Race offers distances from 3 to 30 miles or more, which are unique in this genre as they are timed. They offer more than 200 races in 30 different countries, encouraging their participants to push for both a strong mind and body, and to increase resilience by pushing through the training required to complete a race.9The shorter races are advertised as perfect for new and returning athletes, while the intermediate and longer distances are a test of physical and mental endurance. Spartan's founder Joe De Sena told The Atlantic:10 "Look, at the end of the day, most of us are extremely lazy and our modern environment allows us to be lazy. If someone wants to change that and feel good and go exercise, does a 26.2-mile run on pavement sound appealing? In contrast, with [Spartan], it's just badass and more fun. The imagery, the videos, it's just more likely to rip someone off the couch." Spartan races are designed with obstacles to test your physical and mental strength. Most have a few signature obstacles, such as barbed wired and mud, but there is a wide variety between races so it's nearly impossible to anticipate what you'll be facing.11 By contrast, Tough Mudder races are based on either mileage or time, but are not timed. They offer a 1-mile ultimate showdown to a 10-mile obstacle course. They also offer an eight-hour, through-the-night race, 10-hour competition or 24-hour no-fear race. Obstacles in the Tough Mudder Race include barbed wire, swimming through ice water, climbing walls and crawling through mud.12 While most find the races challenging, including marathon runners and former soldiers, they also enjoy the camaraderie as participants push each other to finish.13 Training and participation builds endurance, agility and coordination. Participants help each other over and through obstacles so each may make it to the finish line.14 John Fidoe, who was a marketing consultant for Tough Mudder until 2016, said the goal of the event is to test the participants' determination, mental strength and ability to work together to achieve their goals. Long-Distance Running May Not Be Healthy While training for, and participating in, some of the longer endurance obstacle races may be popular and encourage teamwork, they may not be healthy for your heart and kidneys. Although it's often easy to pick out the long, lean body and cardiovascular endurance of a marathon runner, this physique may come at a significant cost. Benefits of moderate distances include stress control, weight reduction, lower blood pressure and lower extremity muscle development.15 However, data demonstrates chronic training for endurance events may cause transient acute volume overload on your heart with reductions in right ventricular ejection fractions that return to normal readings within one week.16 Months and years of repetitive injury lead to patchy myocardial fibrosis in the atria, intraventricular septum and right ventricle, increasing your risk of arrhythmias. Additionally, long-term training is associated with coronary artery calcification and large-artery wall stiffening.17 One study18 enrolled 20 long-distance runners training for the Quebec City Marathon with no known cardiovascular disease. The runners were tested prior to, on the day of and again within 48 hours of completing the race. Half of the amateur runners experienced adverse changes, including heart muscle swelling, reduced blood flow and changes in function in the left and right ventricles. Dr. Eric Larose of the University Institute of Cardiology and Pulmonology of Québec observed the changes were more common in runners who began with lower fitness levels or who had trained less.19 In a study20 from William Beaumont Hospital in Michigan, researchers found 40 percent of runners suffered kidney damage after a marathon,21 but another study places the number closer to 75 percent of runners.22 The researchers found the damage was due to physical stress on the kidneys during the race. Fortunately, the kidneys returned to normal days later. However, the question remains if there are long-term consequences to chronic injuries from multiple endurance races. Obstacle Courses Enjoyed by Men and Women Obstacle-course racing has become increasingly popular, attracting more participants. The modern obstacle course began in 1987 when Tough Guy races originated in the U.K. Although not new, the races didn't begin enjoying exponential growth until 2010. The market reached saturation in 2015 and since then the numbers have remained stable.23 However, while the number of participants rose, so did the number and type of races. For this reason, the average number of participants remained stable. Unlike other road races, obstacle course races don't have standard distances. If they are broken into categories of less than 5 miles, between 5 miles and 10 miles, and those longer than 10 miles, participants in the shorter races increased sixfold between 2010 and 2017. However, while you might imagine the shorter races would enjoy the greatest growth, it was the longer distance races that increased the most — 39 times.24 Although there are more men who participate than women, the difference in percentage is not as wide as you might imagine. In 2017, 64 percent of the participants were men and 36 percent were women.25 However, the age distribution is skewed significantly to the left with the number of participants peaking at age 30. Interestingly, California reports 449,500 participants, nearly double the number as the next closest state, New York. Foot Strike and Shoes May Help Prevent Injury While humans have been running for thousands of years, the modern running shoe was not invented until the mid-1970s. As the sport continues to grow in popularity, so does the number of injuries. The repetitive nature, with a force of impact on your knees and hips, increases your risk of injury. Although some would like to increase the amount of cushioning in the shoes, the reality is the shoes with less cushion may offer greater protection. Your loading rate is the speed you apply force to your body. The greater the rate the higher the potential for injury. The theory behind using a well-cushioned shoe is to reduce the force on your joints, tendons and ligaments. However, researchers have found runners who wear shoes with little to no cushion and who run on the balls of their feet usually experience lower loading rates. In a study of 29 runners, researchers compared normal shoes against minimal trainers. Lead author Hannah Rice commented on the results:26 "So many people use running as a means of reducing the risk of chronic diseases, but about three-quarters of runners typically get injured in a year. Footwear is easily modifiable, but many runners are misguided when it comes to buying new trainers. This research shows that running in minimal shoes and landing on the balls of your feet reduces loading rates and may therefore reduce the risk of injury. Our research tells us that becoming accustomed to running with a forefoot strike in shoes that lack cushioning promotes a landing with the lowest loading rates, and this may be beneficial in reducing the risk of injury." Despite new gels, air pockets and foams, more than 50 percent of runners continue to be injured each year. Brian Metzler, editor-in-chief of the running magazine Competitor, believes blaming injury on the type of running shoe you use ignores other contributors to the high injury rate in the sport.27 He points out two factors may impact injury rate, including people who begin running from a nonrunning background and others who suffer from training errors. To read more about your running style and shoe choices, see my previous article, "Ironically, Less Cushion in Your Running Shoes May Mean Fewer Injuries." Dr. Mercola

    • 81-Year-Old Runner Breaking Records — ‘The Best Is yet to Come’

      By Dr. Mercola Regular physical activity is one of the most important things you can do for your health and longevity. Having been an avid exerciser myself for decades, there's no doubt in my mind a comprehensive routine is essential for optimal health. However, fitness is a journey, and one which you may begin at any time in your life. It is important to take stock of your current state of fitness and to keep pushing yourself to new heights, no matter where you start. At the same time, it is critical to listen to your body and be willing to revise your routine as circumstances change. I was a long-distance runner for many years, but as I got older I realized there were far healthier and more effective forms of exercise through which I could enjoy greater health benefits and fewer injuries, including the use of interval training. Strength training, flexibility and aerobic activity are integral parts of a plan to help you to sleep better, improve your immune system, lower your risk of cancer, heart disease and diabetes and improve your brain health. Foundational to your daily activity is nonexercise movement, and may be even more so than a regimented fitness routine. Ideally, it's important to have both, but if you're currently sedentary, I recommend you start by sitting less. Jeanne Daprano, 81-year-old runner and world record holder, has demonstrated it's never too late to start.1 81-Year-Old Runner Believes Better Things Await Her Retired elementary school teacher Jeanne Daprano may be redefining your idea of aging. In this short video interview with CNN, she shares her perspective on fitness and the passage of time, from which she prefers to wring every bit of life out of before she dies. Daprano started breaking records after she turned 50 and believes the best is yet to come. She began her fitness journey in her 30s when, as a third-grade teacher, she recognized her students needed to remain active in order to learn better.2 After retiring, she began participating in international track meets and quickly discovered she loved them. Once she got serious, she qualified for the U.S. Masters Track and Field Team. In 1999 she met her current husband, Bill Daprano, at the meet in England. Nine years her senior, Bill Daprano was an avid fitness buff and head football coach for nine seasons in Georgia, compiling a winning record.3 Due to health reasons, Bill has recently stopped competing, but Jeanne is training for this year's meet in Spain and also runs with the Atlanta Track Club.4 She says:5 "The thing I'm learning about aging is, it's inevitable. I'm not going to escape it. There are two ways to go: You can either press on or give up. Do I want to go back to 50, 40? No. Because I think the best is yet to come." Jeanne holds the current world record in the women's 70-year-old age group mile and women's 75-year-old age group 400 and 800 meters.6 But she was capturing world records in her 60s in the tough middle distance 1500 meter — in both 60-to-64 and the 65-to-69 age groups. Her record times in both age groups was under six minutes for a distance just 200 meters short of a mile.7 Daprano Runs Quality Not Quantity Miles July 21, 2012, Jeanne broke the listed woman's 75-to-79 age group mile record by 49 seconds. This came just after setting a pending record the previous month at the Carolina Classic championships. Daprano talks about her training schedule, which calls for no more than 10 miles of running each week, including her warmup miles.8 “It's not something you'll find in any of the running books, but it works for me. I'm running less than I was five years ago, but I am strengthening more.” Her two running workouts each week take place on a track or on the grass and usually consists mostly of sprint intervals. Daprano picks up her endurance from the rowing machine and stationary bike and is content to run middle distances at this time in her life. According to age-graded tables, her time at age 75 is equal to a 4:00:23-minute mile in prime running years.9 In comparison, the current world open record is 4:12:56, set in 1996 by Svetlana Masterkova,10 12 seconds slower than Daprano’s age adjusted time. Daprano works out with a fitness trainer and averages 50 minutes of squat jumps, deadlifts, wall sets, planks and a number of other resistance and flexibility exercises, as well as running various routines in deep water with weights on her ankles and wrists.11 She believes this routine has helped her avoid injuries and might be the reason she's lost only 10 seconds in her mile time during the first half of her eighth decade in life. She stumbled on to a routine, taking full advantage of strength training while reducing excessive cardiovascular activity that may actually jeopardize heart health. According to one study,12 the rate of sudden cardiac death during a marathon is 0.8 per 100,000 participants — rare, but not unlikely. Excessive cardiovascular training may pose a sevenfold increase in cardiac risk13 as it places extraordinary stress on your heart your body was not designed for. Exercise Adds Quality Years to Your Life Many studies have demonstrated exercise reduces your risk of cardiovascular disease and stroke, two of the leading causes of death in the U.S. Regular physical activity may also reduce your risk of developing Type 2 diabetes and metabolic syndrome, a condition in which you have demonstrable insulin resistance. Increased physical activity may reduce your risk for certain cancers, strengthen your bones and muscles and increase your longevity.14 While the prevention of these hold significant benefits, it is the quality of life improvements that may give you the greatest pleasure. Physical activity can improve your brain health and keep your thinking, learning and judgment skills sharp as you age. It also reduces your risk of depression and helps you to sleep better. Physical activity reduces your functional limitation and may prevent your loss of ability to do everyday activities. Lyle Ungar, researcher in the department of computer and information sciences at the University of Pennsylvania, studies the data defining longevity15 and finds exercise is one of the factors impacting life span the most, and over which we have the most control. According to Ungar:16 "The first 20 minutes [of exercise] a day probably buys you two years [extra] life expectancy. Clearly a win. The second 20 minutes per day probably buys you about one more year. What I really like about exercise is, not only do you live longer, but you die faster in the sense that once you finally start to fall apart, you fall apart quickly. Exercise is good that way." Daprano agrees with the philosophy of fitness as a means to an end. She says,17 "When I get to the final finish line, here on Earth, I want this body to be worn out, there's not a thing left in it. I'm not doing this to live to be 100. I'm doing this to be the best I can be, today. Period." Consider Adding a Personal Trainer to Your Regimen Whether you're just starting out or trying to make improvements in your current fitness regimen, consider consulting with a personal trainer who can instruct you about proper form and technique and coach you through a particular challenge.18 A trainer can also help you develop a plan based on your unique goals and one working safely within any medical conditions you may be suffering. At the start of any program, it's important to start slowly and gradually, increasing your intensity while still listening to your body. Be sure to give yourself ample time for recovery as well as the proper nourishment to build your muscles. Both rest and nutrition are important to fitness as your muscles grow stronger faster when given the proper time to rest and the nutrition needed to build strength. If you are elderly, infirm, have balance issues or have otherwise been injured in the recent past, and you decide to try exercising at home, be sure you have a “spotter” next to you in case you lose your balance. Even when your fitness routine does not require balance, such as riding a stationary bike, it's important to have someone at home in case you get injured. Personal trainers are also educated in teaching others how to exercise, along with proper nutrition and lifestyle changes to improve your potential to reach your fitness goals.19 Trainers can demonstrate proper form, help with your unique requirements as you set realistic goals, help to hold you accountable to your program and encourage you to form good habits, while breaking bad ones. Draw Inspiration From These Seniors Starting a new program or increasing the intensity of one you already use may require inspiration to get over the initial challenge. Consider the lives of people who have gone before you, and draw motivation from their actions and their goal-oriented lifestyle choices. Bill and Jeanne Daprano are just one example of a husband-wife team who have brought home gold to Georgia after retirement.20 If you're an older adult, you have a lot to gain from strength training, including range of motion, balance, bone density and mental clarity. It's important to remember without strength training your muscles atrophy and you lose mass. Age-related loss of muscle mass, known as sarcopenia, occurs if you don't do anything to stop it. You may expect to lose nearly 15 percent of your muscle mass between age 30 and your 80s. However, strength training will improve your ability to perform daily tasks, give you relief from joint pain as it strengthens the muscles, tendons and ligaments around your joints, and will improve your blood sugar control. Strength training also increases your body's production of growth factors responsible for cellular growth, proliferation and differentiation. Some of these promote the growth, differentiation and survival of neurons, which helps explain why working your muscles also benefits your brain and helps prevent dementia. In my previous article, “Shot of Inspiration — Superstar Seniors Exercise Well Into Their Golden Years,” you’ll find stories about a 77-year-old powerlifter, 93-year-old WWII veteran who ran across the U.S. and the world’s oldest yoga teacher. For those who are starting to get in shape or maintain a fitness routine, Jeanne Daprano offers this advice:21 "Listen to your body. What are you passionate about? How are you going to keep physically fit and mentally fit? Start where you are. Don't look ahead or compare yourself to somebody else. I'm still doing it, and I probably have a greater passion now than ever, because I'm understanding who I am." Dr. Mercola

    • Regular Sauna Use Decreases Disease

      By Dr. Mercola Heat stress is an important way of optimizing heat shock proteins (HSP) inside your cells that trigger mitochondrial biogenesis, thereby supporting your overall health, especially your cardiovascular, cardiac and brain health.1 Over time, HSP are damaged and need to be renewed. An accumulation of damaged HSP may lead to plaque formation in your brain or vascular system, and heat stress helps to prevent this chain of events.2 HSP are also involved in longevity, and are important for preventing muscle atrophy. Not surprisingly, much of the research has come from Finland, where most Finns3 take a sauna at least once a week, and saunas are found in most private homes and even places of work.4 Known as a "poor man's pharmacy," saunas offer proven health benefits virtually anyone can enjoy. The Many Health Benefits of Sauna Use For example, sauna use has been shown to: Reduce your risk for stroke.5 Taking a sauna one to three times per week has been shown to lower your stroke risk by 12 percent, while daily sauna use (four to seven times a week) can reduce your risk by as much as 62 percent. Researchers suggest sauna use reduces stroke risk by lowering inflammation, reducing arterial stiffness and improving blood flow through your circulatory system. Benefit your brain by increasing the production of growth factors and brain derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF),6 which activates brain stem cells to convert into new neurons,7,8 thereby lowering your risk for dementia and Alzheimer's. Boost your mood. The reason for this is because your body responds to heat through the production of dynorphin,9 the chemical opposite of endorphins. However, dynorphins sensitize your brain to endorphins, which tends to boost mood. If you've ever had a sauna, you've probably experienced this "mellowing" effect. Improve fitness and athletic performance by increasing endurance,10 in part by boosting nitric oxide. Heat stress also increases plasma volume and blood flow to your heart, which reduces cardiovascular strain and lowers your heart rate during exercise. By increasing blood flow to your muscles, it also reduces fatigue, and by improving thermoregulatory control and increasing sweat rate, it allows your core body heat to remain lower even during intense exertion. Protect your heart by improving vascular health, blood pressure and heart rate11 Flush toxins out of your body, including pesticides and heavy metals such as cadmium, arsenic, lead and mercury. As noted in a review published in the Journal of Environmental and Public Health:12 "Sweating is not only observed to enhance excretion of the toxic elements of interest in this paper, but also may increase excretion of diverse toxicants, as observed in New York rescue workers, or in particular persistent flame retardants and bisphenol-A … Optimizing the potential of sweating as a therapeutic excretory mechanism merits further research." As discussed in my interview with Dr. George Yu, the mobilization of stored toxins can be further enhanced by taking niacin (vitamin B3). The niacin helps mobilize fat, freeing up toxic chemicals locked in lipophilic tissues such as your brain. When the niacin is taken in conjunction with sauna bathing, the mobilized toxins can then be safely eliminated through your sweat. Boost your immune function by increasing white blood cell, lymphocyte, neutrophil and basophil counts. Reduce pain associated with rheumatoid arthritis, ankylosing spondylitis13 and fibromyalgia,14 as well as headache pain. In a study of patients with fibromyalgia, a reduction in pain15 between 33 percent and 77 percent was noted after use of a far infrared dry sauna. Six months after the conclusion of the study, participants continued to report a reduction in pain between 28 percent and 68 percent. Kill disease-causing microbes. Lower inflammation and reduce oxidative stress. Improve respiratory function in those with asthma, bronchitis and obstructive pulmonary disease16,17 Reduce your risk of death from any cause, including sudden death from a cardiac event.18 Sauna Users Have Lower Risk of Chronic Disease Considering that list, it's no surprise that regular sauna users have been found to have fewer chronic health problems and lower mortality risk. They also tend to be far less prone to contract the common cold and/or influenza. These were the conclusions reached by a recent scientific review published in Mayo Clinic Proceedings.19,20,21 For this review, which included more than 70 studies, the researchers focused on a specific type of sauna, namely dry Finnish saunas, which are typically heated to a temperature of 176 to 212 degrees Fahrenheit (80 to 100 C) with a relative humidity between 10 and 20 percent. As noted by lead author Dr. Jari Laukkanen of the University of Jyvaskyla in Finland: "Beyond pleasure and relaxation, evidence suggests that sauna bathing has several health benefits, which include reduction in the risk of vascular diseases such as high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease, stroke and memory diseases. Sauna is also related to a lower risk of pulmonary diseases including asthma, pneumonia and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease." Compared to once-a-week saunas, studies included in the review showed taking a sauna four or more times a week reduced the risk of: Death from heart disease by 50 percent High blood pressure by 47 percent Dementia and Alzheimer's disease by 66 percent22 Respiratory diseases and pneumonia by 41 and 37 percent respectively Premature death from all causes by 40 percent Sauna Use Significantly Cuts Your Risk of Dementia Considering Alzheimer's is now the third leading cause of death in the U.S., right behind heart disease and cancer, the protective benefits of sauna bathing cannot be overstressed. As mentioned, taking a sauna at least four times a week may cut your risk by 66 percent, compared to taking a sauna just once a week.23 If you're not using the sauna at all, the risk reduction is bound to be even greater. Sauna use has also been shown to improve focus and attention in general,24 which makes sense when you consider its beneficial impact on vascular function, blood flow and elimination of toxic debris from your brain. Heat stress also promotes myelin growth,25 thereby helping your brain repair nerve cell damage and function faster. Your Choice in Saunas Makes a Difference There are several types of saunas to choose from, and they all work in different ways: Finnish wet sauna, in which water is tossed on hot coals, generating ample amounts of steam and humidity Finnish dry sauna, oftentimes electric, which prevents the use of water Infrared saunas, which include far-infrared and near-infrared (emitters and lamps) While Finnish saunas are most common in Europe, infrared saunas tend to be more popular in the U.S. Both will induce heat stress and make you sweat, but there are notable differences between the two types.26 The main difference between a far-infrared sauna and the traditional Finnish-style saunas (whether wet or dry) is the Finnish-style sauna heats you from the outside in, like an oven, whereas the infrared sauna heats you from the inside out. Infrared saunas are particularly known for their ability to promote detoxification, and this inside-out heating is part of the reason for that, as the heat is able to penetrate deeper into your tissues. Benefits of Near-Infrared Saunas Most near-infrared saunas consist of full spectrum heat lamps and have additional benefits over others,27 including far-infrared saunas, primarily by interacting with chromophores in your body. Chromophores are light absorbing molecules found in your mitochondria and in water molecules. To ensure near-infrared rays penetrate your skin, avoid wearing clothing when using a near-infrared sauna. Near-infrared penetrates your tissue even more effectively than far-infrared since they have wavelengths under 900 nanometers, which are not absorbed by water like the higher wavelengths in mid- and far-infrared and actually can reach deeper into your tissues to provide their therapeutic benefits. What's more, near-infrared targets the cytochrome c oxidase in the mitochondria, causing dissociation of nitric oxide and increasing electron transport and ATP synthesis, all of which have important benefits. In a way, you could say near-infrared helps fuel your body, as it actually triggers your mitochondria to produce additional ATP (cellular energy). Near-infrared is also particularly beneficial for regeneration of deeper structures such as tendons, bones and cartilage; orthopedic and musculoskeletal problems. Metabolic syndrome and diabetes are two other conditions that could benefit from near-infrared light exposure. Near-infrared even helps your body produce melatonin, which may help improve your sleep. Meanwhile, the biological effects of far-infrared are primarily related to its ability to alter protein structures and structure the water in and around your cells. We now know mitochondrial dysfunction is at the heart of most health problems and chronic diseases, including many signs of aging. For these reasons, I strongly recommend using a low- or no-EMF emitting sauna that offers a full spectrum of infrared radiation, not just far-infrared. Common Sense Safety Precautions While most people can safely use the sauna, if you're unfamiliar with it, start slowly, spending just five minutes or so in there to start, and build your heat tolerance to avoid overstressing your cardiovascular system.28 Over time, work your way up to where you can (relatively) comfortably spend up to a half-hour in the sauna. Keep in mind that even if you can comfortably tolerate the heat, the detoxification process can in some cases be severe, depending on your toxic load. If you experience detox symptoms or feel ill after sauna bathing, try cutting down on the time you spend in there. Also, if you are trying to have a baby, you'll want to steer clear of the sauna. With men, as your body heat rises, so does the temperature of your testicles, reducing your fertility. This reduces your sperm count and motility (how well sperm swim). The effect is reversible, but can take up to five weeks. For women, you'll also want to avoid the sauna during pregnancy as it may cause fetal abnormalities. Following are a few other safety factors to consider as well: • Drink plenty of water to stay hydrated. Heat stress or heat stroke are real possibilities from excessive fluid loss. The potential for the effects of significant dehydration are higher when you use a sauna after a hard workout. Carry a water bottle, preferably protected glass, with you and drink frequently. Do not drink alcohol in a sauna as the alcohol and heat may trigger a cardiovascular event. Keep in mind you'll lose important body electrolytes when you do a sauna so it is also important to supplement with extra salt. Either salt your food more, or put a half-teaspoon of Himalayan salt in 2 ounces of water and flavor it with lemon or lime juice and use it as salt shot. • If you experience a headache after using a sauna or hot tub, you may want to use a cool rag over your head so your body will cool more easily. Your core temperature will still rise, but the experience may be more pleasant. • A sauna is supposed to be relaxing and not a torture chamber. Your body is designed to function optimally at 98.6 F (37 C). Raising your core temperature above 104.8 F (40.4 C) is a medical emergency. Staying in a sauna longer than you should, or becoming severely dehydrated, can lead to death. Avoid using a sauna by yourself; always sauna with a buddy. And always listen to your body when deciding how much heat stress you can tolerate. If you're ill or heat-sensitive, decrease the temperature, time spent in the sauna or both. • Steer clear of public saunas that are not thoroughly and carefully cleaned between clients. Remember, saunas detoxify your body of heavy metals, which are released in your sweat. When you enter a sauna that hasn't been cleaned you can potentially absorb the heavy metals and toxins from the previous client through your skin. Health centers offering sauna therapy have rigorous cleansing protocols in place between each patient, which is something you likely will not find in your local gym or other places offering saunas for public use. Ideally, consider purchasing your own for use at home. Dr. Mercola

    • The Importance of Standing More, Sitting Less

      By Dr. Mercola With over 300 joints, your body was made for movement. Although the rising tide of technology has created an amazing number of ways to share information, it has also increased the number of hours you remain seated each day. It's likely by now most understand sitting glued to your desk all day increases your risk of illness and early death. Unfortunately, the average U.S. adult spends nine to 12 hours each day sitting,1,2 and a 60-minute workout cannot counteract the effects of this level of inactivity.3 Sitting is not inherently dangerous. The danger is in the amount of time you spend sitting. Brief periods of sitting are natural, whereas long periods can seriously impact your health and shorten your life. Exercise Likely Not Enough to Offset Damage Done by Sitting All Day A recent study in the Annals of Internal Medicine4 demonstrated that sitting for prolonged periods of time can indeed be deadly. Even those who exercised heavily when they were not at the office experienced a significantly increased risk of death when seated for eight hours a day. During the study, the team evaluated 8,000 Americans over the age of 45 for a four-year period. Participants wore accelerometers to track their movements. The researchers found those who moved more were healthier overall. However, they also found a correlation between death rates of participants and how many hours they spent seated during the day. In other words, there was a relationship between the time spent seated and the risk of early mortality from any cause.5 Although the American Heart Association encourages sitting less and moving more, the guideline maybe too simplistic. Keith Diaz, certified exercise physiologist and lead author of the study at Columbia University, believes this is like telling someone to exercise without telling them how.6 Instead, guidelines should be precise, such as those by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which recommends moderate-intensity aerobic exercise for 2.5 hours every week, plus strengthening activities two or more times a week. Diaz says:7 “We need similar guidelines for sitting. We think a more specific guideline could read something like, ‘For every 30 consecutive minutes of sitting, stand up and move or walk for five minutes at a brisk pace to reduce the health risks from sitting.’” Although previous studies found daily sitting time to average between nine and 10 hours per day,8 data analysis from this study found an average of 12.3 hours of sedentary behavior for an average 16-hour waking day. As total sedentary time increased, so did early death by any cause, regardless of the participants’ age, sex, race, body mass index or exercise habits.9 The results indicated those who sat in stretches of less than 30 minutes had a 55 percent lower risk of death than those who sat for more than 30 minutes at a stretch. What Happens When You Sit for Long Periods of Time? Sitting for long periods of time takes a toll on your body. Dr. James Levine, codirector of the Mayo Clinic/Arizona State University Obesity Initiative, and author of the book “Get Up! Why Your Chair Is Killing You and What You Can Do About It,” has dedicated a good part of his career to investigating the health effects of sitting. His investigations demonstrate when you sit for long periods of time a number of molecular cascades are initiated. Ninety seconds after standing, muscular and cellular systems processing blood sugar, triglycerides and cholesterol are activated, simply by carrying your own body weight. These cellular mechanisms are also responsible for pushing fuel into your cells, and when done regularly, may radically reduce your risk of diabetes and obesity. In other words, while your joints make movement easier, your body enjoys benefits even at the molecular level. Although many recommend standing for 10 minutes of every hour of sitting, I believe this is the bare minimum and far from ideal. It seems far wiser to strive to sit as little as possible each day. Here are some things that may go wrong when you're parked in front of your desk all day long.10 Heart In the seated position, muscles burn less fat and blood flows more sluggishly. Prolonged sitting has been linked to hypertension, and research data demonstrates women who sit for 10 hours a day may have a significantly greater risk of developing heart disease than those who sit for five hours or less.11 Pancreas Research has demonstrated those who sit for long periods of time are twice as likely to have diabetes or heart disease, compared to those who sit the least.12 Sitting eight hours a day has been associated with a 90 percent increased risk of Type 2 diabetes.13 Cancer Sitting may increase your risk of colon, breast, lung,14 uterine and endometrial cancers. This increased risk may be due to an excess insulin production encouraging cell growth, or a reduction in protection from antioxidants regular movement boosts in your body. Another risk may be related to weight gain and associated biochemical changes, such as alterations in hormones, metabolic dysfunction, leptin dysfunction and inflammation. Digestion Sitting after eating slows digestion and compresses your abdominal contents. This in turn may lead to cramping, bloating, heartburn and constipation, as well as dysbiosis in your gastrointestinal tract. This is a condition created by microbial imbalances. According to Microbial Ecology in Health and Disease,15 there's growing evidence it is associated with pathogenesis of intestinal and extra-intestinal disorders, including inflammatory bowel disease, irritable bowel syndrome and celiac disease, as well as allergies, metabolic syndrome, cardiovascular disease and obesity. Brain Your brain function slows when your body is sedentary for too long. Your brain will get less fresh blood and oxygen, which are needed to trigger the release of brain- and mood-enhancing chemicals. Posture Many commonly sit with head and neck forward working at a computer or cradling a phone. This leads to strain of your cervical vertebra, with permanent imbalances, which can lead to neck strain, sore shoulders and back. Sitting also increases pressure on your spine and the toll is worse if you are sitting hunched over. It is estimated 40 percent of people with back pain have spent long hours at their computer each day. Muscles Standing requires your core muscles to be engaged, which often go unused when you sit in a slouched position. Your hips may also suffer, becoming tight with limited range of motion as they are rarely extended. This may lead to decreased mobility and falls in the elderly. Sitting weakens your gluteal muscles, affecting your stability and the power of your stride. Legs Sitting leads to poor circulation in your legs, causing swelling in your ankles, varicose veins and blood clots known as deep vein thrombosis. Walking, running and engaging in other weight-bearing activities increases your bone density and reduces your risk for osteoporosis and bone fractures. Sitting Right Requires Greater Muscle Activation and Reduces Pain and Strain When you do sit, it’s important to sit with good posture. This will help reduce problems with lower back pain, wrist strain and other physical challenges associated with poor posture. However, while using good sitting posture is important, it does not negate your need for more movement. When sitting in a correct posture you:16 Sit with your back straight and your shoulders back, pulling your shoulder blades down. Your buttocks should touch the back of your chair and your head should remain upright, all of which engage your core muscles. Distribute your body weight evenly over both hips, with your knees bent at right angles, your feet flat to the floor. Do not cross your knees. Avoid twisting at the waist while sitting, but instead turn your whole body. Place your computer screen at a height allowing your head to remain level. This may mean getting an external keyboard to allow the keyboard at hand level and the screen at eye level. Avoid sitting for more than 20 minutes. Get up, walk, stretch or walk briskly for several minutes. This not only helps to reduce the effects of sitting, but it increases your blood flow and improves your creativity. When standing from the sitting position, move to the front of your seat and then stand up by straightening your legs. Avoid bending forward at your waist as this places additional pressure on your lower back. Consider a lumbar roll or back support while driving. Your knees should be at the same level or slightly higher than your hips. Move the seat as close to the steering wheel as necessary to support the curve of your back while keeping your elbows bent and your feet easily reaching the pedals. Create a Movement-Rich Environment Foundation exercises, developed by chiropractor Dr. Eric Goodman, can help counteract some of the damage caused by sitting. These exercises are used by many professional and elite athletes but, more importantly, they address the root cause of lower back pain related to weakness and imbalance along your posterior chain of muscles. This short video demonstrates “The Founder,” a key exercise that helps reinforce proper movement while strengthening the entire back of your body. There are a significant number of benefits to standing during the day, including a slight rise in heart rate, calorie expenditure and greater insulin sensitivity.17 In addition to reducing your risk for the health conditions listed above, an increase in movement may add years to your life. Reducing the time you spend sitting down each day to three hours or less could increase your life expectancy by two years.18 Each hour watching television after age 25 reduces your life expectancy by nearly 22 minutes.19 Standing and moving also help improve weight management and productivity. There are several ways to accomplish this at home and at work requiring just a little creativity. Levine suggests walk-and-talk meetings when company administration agrees. You may also consider moving objects you commonly use out of reach so you're required to get up if you need to throw something away or grab something off the printer. Make a habit of drinking 4 to 6 ounces of water every hour and place your container of pure, clean water from home in the refrigerator. This way you'll have to get up to fill your glass and will likely get up to use the bathroom on a more frequent basis. Some companies are moving toward allowing employees to use standing desks or treadmill desks. Rather than sitting all day, you have the option of getting up and down. Keep in mind it may take a couple of weeks to build the stamina to stand for several hours during the day. If your employer is not open to a standing desk, consider standing at your desk when speaking on the phone or when you otherwise do not need your keyboard. Ask your employer to consider an exercise ball chair. These are chairs with an open seat bottom where a Swiss exercise ball can be lodged. This provides you with an unstable platform on which to sit and increases your core muscle engagement while sitting. Although this next option does not offer additional weight bearing and does not take the place of getting out of your chair, consider using a seated pedal exerciser. This is an under-the-desk apparatus that looks like the pedals on a bicycle and allows you to keep your legs moving while seated. If used, it's important your chair is placed high enough to ensure proper posture while seated. The Simple Sitting-Rising Test You Can Do at Home Predicts Mortality The ability to sit and rise from the floor may be able to predict your longevity over the next six years. Brazilian researchers20 developed a test different from the long-used chair test, in which physicians gauge an elderly person's lower body strength by how well they can stand up from a chair. This new sitting-rising test is scored zero to 5 for each movement (sitting and rising), with a combined score of 10 being the highest and awarded only to those who can sit and rise from the floor without any assistance from their hands or knees. The test is very simple: You sit on and get up from the floor using as little assistance from your hands, knees or other body parts as possible. For each body part you use for support, you lose 1 point from the possible top score of 10. For instance, if you put one hand on the floor to support yourself as you sit down and then use a knee and a hand to help as you get up, you lose 3 points for a combined score of 7. The scores correlated strongly with mortality during the six year study. For each increase in score, the participants gained a 21 percent improvement in survival. Specifically: Those who scored between zero and 3 were 6.5 times more likely to die during the study than those who scored between 8 and 10 Those who scored 3.5 to 5.5 were 3.8 times more likely to die Those who scored 6 to 7.5 were 1.8 times more likely to die I would not take the results of this study as “gospel.” However, if you are 30 years old and you score 3, it provides a perspective on the connection between mobility and health, and may encourage you to get back in shape. Even if you've been exercising like I have for five decades, it can still be a challenge. The test is a simple measure of fitness at the most basic level, testing not only strength but also flexibility, balance and coordination. All of these are essential for day-to-day living and maintaining your independence as you age. Unfortunately, despite a growing body of research clearly demonstrating exercise deficiency threatens your overall health and mental well-being, only 15 percent of adults engage in vigorous physical activity three times a week for 20 minutes.21 Balanced Movement Reduces Injury To read more about how sitting affects your biomechanics, movement and using soft-tissue work to down-regulate your body into recovery mode, see “Improving Your Health by Ditching Desks and Chairs.” The article also contains a 30-minute interview with Kelly Starrett, who has a Ph.D. in physical therapy and has focused his career on fitness and mobility. I highly recommend Starrett’s book, "Deskbound: Standing Up to a Sitting World." I believe most people can benefit from his wisdom and strategies to help address movement challenges. If you have a desk job, this book is a veritable gold mine of helpful guidance. Starrett is one of the leaders in the CrossFit movement and stresses the importance of proper body mechanics, both in and outside the gym. He also has a YouTube channel called MobilityWOD, which stands for Workout of the Day. The interventions he suggests are not only powerful, they're also inexpensive — in most cases free. When you consider the well-documented benefits of movement over sitting, implementing these strategies is really one of the best types of health insurance you can get. Dr. Mercola

    • Fitness Checkup: Why You Need to Try the Nitric Oxide Dump Workout

      Congratulations to yesterday’s winners: Robin from Maple Ridge & Silja from Lilliehammer! Click here to enter our giveaway for your chance to win! By Dr. Mercola Our anniversary week is a great time to check on you with respect to your fitness goals. We're just past midyear and now's the time to revisit your plan to ensure you will finish the year strong. If you are new to exercise, it's rarely too late to start. Simply look for ways to get more activity and movement into your day or choose a form of exercise you can commit to doing regularly and get going with it. As you think about the exercise you are currently getting or about types of exercise you may want to begin doing, I hope you will consider high-intensity interval training (HIIT). HIIT focuses on short bursts of intense exercise that stimulate your mitochondria to work harder. I often mention you're only as healthy as your mitochondria, mainly because mitochondrial dysfunction is at the root of virtually all disease. One particular HIIT I hope you'll consider is the Nitric Oxide Dump. It is a four-minute workout featuring four exercises that address your 16 major muscle groups. While it may be hard to believe, in those few minutes you can achieve the same quality workout and benefits as if you'd exercised in the gym for an hour. That's because the program is designed to stimulate the release of nitric oxide, a soluble gas and free radical stored in the lining of your blood vessels that can catalyze your health. Let's take a closer look at this workout and some of my other fitness recommendations. Why the Nitric Oxide Dump Is Perhaps the Best Workout Ever If you've been following me for any length of time, you have probably heard me talk about HIIT. It's one of my favorite forms of exercise. I love HIIT not only because it takes less time, but also because it makes my mitochondria work harder, ensuring my body is primed to resist disease. As I mentioned earlier, a particular HIIT workout called the Nitric Oxide Dump requires just four minutes to complete and it features basic exercises to address all 16 of your major muscle groups. Dr. Zach Bush, whose triple-board certification includes expertise in internal medicine, endocrinology and metabolism, says the Nitric Oxide Dump is efficient anaerobically and the more you do it, the better it works. I demonstrate a version of the workout in the video above. This routine works best if you complete it three times a day, waiting at least two hours between sessions, which is how long it takes for nitric oxide to synthesize in your body for subsequent release. Bush comments:1 "Our blood vessels actually only store about 90 seconds' worth of nitric oxide before they need to manufacture more, so working each major muscle group out for 90 seconds gives you the most efficient workout to tone and build muscles. The body has the ability to regenerate nitric oxide every couple of hours, giving you the opportunity to release it multiple times a day. What that means is the most effective way to increase your muscle function is to work out very briefly every few hours." The Nitric Oxide Dump program is one of the best ways to start toning your body's systems, plus it's free and so easy nearly anyone can do it. This workout is so convenient you can perform it multiple times per day at home or work and even while you are on vacation. Beyond loose-fitting clothing, no special equipment is required and you can do the workout indoors or out. How a Free Radical Like Nitric Oxide Can Benefit Your Body The key to the Nitric Oxide Dump workout centers on the release of nitric oxide. It is produced by nearly every type of cell in your body and is one of the most important molecules for blood vessel health. While you often hear about the negative effects of free radicals, your body needs some of them to be healthy. Nitric oxide is a free radical that acts as a vasodilator, which means it causes your blood vessels to expand and dilate, promoting blood flow and lowering your blood pressure. It also improves your immune function, stimulates the thinning of your blood and decreases blood viscosity, which in turn decreases platelet aggregation. As such, nitric oxide helps reduce your risk of developing a life-threatening blood clot. Another benefit of nitric oxide is that it's a powerful anabolic stimulus known to help increase your lean body mass. When you increase your muscle mass, your body is more easily able to burn fat for fuel. The increased presence of free radicals such as nitric oxide signals your body to create more mitochondria — a process called mitochondrial biogenesis. This is necessary to keep up with the heightened energy requirement. Your mitochondria are the energy storehouses of your cells and are also the energy source for your skeletal muscles. Mitochondrial changes can have a positive impact on your skeletal muscle, fat tissue and even your liver, brain and kidneys. Five Benefits of the Nitric Oxide Dump Workout When performed daily, multiple times a day, the Nitric Oxide Dump can help provide health benefits such as:2,3 1. Improving age-related decline in your muscle mitochondria: The Nitric Oxide Dump may assist with counteracting mitochondrial decline because exercise forces your mitochondria to replicate themselves in response to the higher energy requirement demanded by the workout. Even though aging is inevitable, the ability exercise has to spur positive mitochondrial changes may help slow some of the effects of biological aging. 2. Increasing your VO2 max: VO2 max is the maximum amount of oxygen your body can handle while exercising. It is measured as milliliters of oxygen used in one minute per kilogram of body weight. As a measure of your cardiovascular endurance, the higher your VO2 max, the greater your stamina. 3. Reducing insulin resistance: Research has proven high-intensity exercise may help decrease insulin resistance, a known precursor to Type 2 diabetes. Studies show that losing weight by working out significantly improves your insulin resistance. 4. Targeting your large muscle groups to promote weight loss: The Nitric Oxide Dump features a series of movements that target your large muscle groups such as arms, shoulders and thighs. Doing the exercises correctly will yield both anabolic and metabolic benefits, which will promote both weight loss and fat loss throughout your body over time. 5. Triggering mitochondrial biogenesis for whole-body benefits: Exercise can promote mitochondrial changes that have the potential to deliver whole-body benefits, including the declines in mitochondrial biogenesis and mitochondrial protein quality that are typically influenced by aging. Because exercise can promote mitochondrial biogenesis in the brain, it has been shown to positively contribute to the reduction or reversal of age-associated decline in cognitive function and assist in repairing brain damage after a stroke.4,5 Getting Started: A Few Reminders Before Doing HIIT HIIT exercises like the Nitric Oxide Dump may seem intense, especially if you are elderly or have not exercised before. The truth is, with a few modifications and some patience, most people can perform these exercises — at any age — and reap significant benefits. That said, it's best you talk to your doctor before undertaking any new exercise routine, especially HIIT, to ensure your body can handle it. To avoid injury, you also can consult with a physical therapist or personal trainer for advice on how to customize the exercises to your particular needs and situation. Other Types of Exercise I Recommend You Perform Regularly • Daily walking: Given the popularity of fitness tracking apps and devices, you probably recognize the positive effect daily walking can have on your health. To get in the recommended 10,000 to 15,000 steps daily, you'll need to take every opportunity to walk by parking farther away from your destination, taking the stairs, walking on your lunch break and so on. • Strength training: As featured in the video above, strength training is an important aspect of any fitness program. It's well-known that working with weights ­­— whether it be your own body weight or that of a dumbbell or machine — is a beneficial exercise designed to enhance your muscle tone and strengthen your bones. This form of exercise is well-known for preventing osteoporosis and joint damage from osteoarthritis. It also helps boost your metabolism, reduce your body mass index and lower your risk of heart disease and Type 2 diabetes. • Stretching: When used as part of your warmup, active stretching has been shown to positively influence your agility, endurance, flexibility power, speed and strength performance. Active isolated stretching (AIS), a method developed by kinesiology and kinesiotherapy specialist Aaron Mattes, can also help you rehab from injuries. With AIS, you hold each stretch for only two seconds, which works with your body's natural physiological makeup to improve circulation and increase the elasticity of your muscle joints. • Yoga: Yoga is a holistic lifestyle practice focused on promoting a connection among your mind, body and spirit. Research suggests yoga and other meditative practices can alter your genetic expression.6 The benefits of regular yoga practice include improved cognitive function, heart health, immunity, mental health, sexual performance and sleep. Yoga also promotes increased balance, flexibility and strength. In addition, it is a wonderful tool to address low-back pain. It's Never Too Late to Start an Exercise Program Regardless of your age and physical condition, it's rarely too late to start an exercise program. Some of my readers have suggested I set too high a bar when it comes to exercise. Given my advanced level of fitness, it may seem my suggestions are out of reach for the average person. I assure you every program I recommend can be adjusted and customized to your individual needs. If you're not sure how, you may want to consult a personal trainer. In the video above, my late mother, who was 76 years old at the time of filming, proves anyone can exercise. The key is to focus on what you can do more than what you cannot do. Bringing as much movement as possible into your activities of daily living is a great place to start. Instead of sitting for long hours, break up the time with short walks, gardening or household chores. If you work at a desk all day, take breaks every hour and consider investing in a standing desk, which I have found to be beneficial. If you have joint problems and are concerned about ankle, knee or hip pain, you might consider swimming or another water-based activity. In addition to supporting your cardiovascular fitness and boosting your fat burning and strength, swimming offers one clear benefit for people who have trouble exercising on land: It's not a weight-bearing workout. If you are overweight or obese, struggle with joint pain or osteoarthritis or are elderly and unable to engage in higher impact activities, exercising in water will allow your body to move in a wider range of motion, often without pain. By exercising in water, you'll also reduce your risk of falls, sprains and other injuries. Vertical water workouts, such as deep-water jogging, flexibility training, water aerobics, water yoga and more, are a few of the options to consider when you jump into the pool. Given the higher amounts of resistance involved, vertical water exercises are a great alternative to land-based programs or horizontal swimming, particularly if you have chronic pain or mobility issues. The Bottom Line: Move More and Sit Less Even if you exercise on a regular basis, research validates 30 to 60 minutes of exercise a few days a week is insufficient to counteract the effects of sitting all day. Whether working at a desk, playing video games, sitting during transportation or other sedentary tasks like reading, studying or surfing the internet, more than half of the average person's time awake is spent sitting.7 The health challenges associated with not moving enough are significant and wide ranging. The chronic illnesses most often linked to lack of activity include certain cancers, heart disease, insulin resistance and obesity. Although I highly recommend you try the Nitric Oxide Dump workout, the bottom line is you need to move more and sit less. Regardless of what exercise you choose or how often you commit to doing it, I cannot stress enough the importance of doing something. Start today! Dr. Mercola

    • Simple Stretches to Help Relieve Lower Back Pain

      By Dr. Mercola According to the 2016 Global Burden of Disease Study,1 low back pain is the single leading cause of disability worldwide. The reasons and causes of back pain are legion — they are as varied as the people who complain, "Oh, my aching back." Back pain is associated with conditions ranging from arthritis to pregnancy. Your back may hurt due to muscle spasms or an unfortunate twist. You could have a bulging or herniated disc or a fracture. Other reasons for back pain stem from long hours spent sitting, poor posture and being overweight — factors known to increase the pressure on your joints and spine. No matter how you came to it, there are a variety of natural approaches for taking care of lower back pain, including chiropractic, herbs, massage and yoga-based stretches. How Big of a Concern Is Back Pain? If you've experienced low back pain, you are not alone. Unfortunately, the condition is quite common, ranking ahead of migraines, hearing loss and depression as the top cause of disability worldwide. To gauge the significance of low back pain as a major health concern, consider the following facts provided by the American Chiropractic Association:2 Annually, about 50 percent of working Americans admit to having back pain symptoms The costs associated with low back pain in the U.S. exceed $100 billion per year and two-thirds of the costs are indirect, such as lost wages and reduced job productivity3 An estimated 80 percent of the population will experience a back problem at some point during their lives4 At least 31 million Americans experience low back pain at any given time5 Back pain is one of the most common reasons for missing work6 and it is second only to upper respiratory infections as the top reason for a doctor's visit7 Common Causes of Low Back Pain There are many causes of low back pain. Some come on suddenly — through an unexpected accident or fall. Others are gradual, such as pain from a long-ago sports injury or the effects of a degenerative spinal condition. Below are some of the common causes of low back pain. Age You may experience degenerative changes to your spine as you age. In some cases, these changes are affected by the way you use your back and the strength of the muscles supporting your spine. If you are between the ages of 30 and 60, you are more likely to have spinal disc-related problems and if you are over 60, it's more likely you'll suffer from osteoarthritic pain.8 Family and medical history Clearly a family history of back pain may increase your personal risk. Your medical history also plays a role. If you have a history of disc degeneration, osteoarthritis, osteoporosis or spondylolysis, you will be at greater risk for back pain. Pregnancy Due to weight gain and the position of the baby, pregnant women are more predisposed to low back pain. Pregnancy often changes your center of gravity and can also increase the curve in your lower back. Sedentary lifestyle A lack of exercise does more than affect your risk of heart attack or stroke, it also increases stiffness and weakens the muscles needed to support your back. Regular stretching and strengthening exercises may reduce or even prevent back pain; these activities also nourish your ligaments, spinal discs and soft tissues.9 Sitting and standing posture Your posture during sitting may change the normal curvature of your low back, increasing pressure on your spinal column and individual discs and causing pain. Poor posture during both sitting and standing puts stress on your back and also may predispose you to low back pain. Smoking Smoking reduces the amount of oxygen delivered to your body tissue, which adversely affects your spinal discs and increases your risk of back pain. Research demonstrates smokers have a stronger connection between their nucleus accumbens and medial prefrontal cortex, which scientists suggest makes smokers three times more likely to develop chronic back pain than nonsmokers.10,11 Weight Excess weight creates an additional burden on your joints and low back, which may result in herniated discs, sciatica pain or spinal stenosis. If you are obese, your discs and other spinal structures may become damaged as they try to compensate for the pressure the extra weight is putting on your back. Work- or sports-related effects Repetitive lifting, bending and twisting may increase your risk of low back pain when you are working or playing sports. Long hours of sitting or standing can also stress your back, especially if your posture is poor. Use Caution When Considering Medication to Treat Persistent Back Pain Even though conventional doctors are sometimes quick to prescribe medications like nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), acetaminophen and opioids for chronic back pain, you'd be wise to consider healthier alternatives. While these medications can provide some measure of relief, their effects are temporary and they are not without side effects. NSAIDs, for example, which are one of the most commonly prescribed medications on the market, put you at an increased risk of heart attack, stroke and other cardiovascular problems.12 NSAIDs can also increase your blood pressure and cause digestive tract bleeding or kidney problems. Keep in mind these life-threatening side effects of common painkillers apply to over-the-counter medications like Advil, aspirin, Motrin and generic ibuprofen medications as well. Of greater concern are highly addictive opioid painkillers like OxyContin, which are often prescribed for back pain. Opioids continue to be some of the most commonly abused prescription drugs and they are a leading cause of fatal prescription drug overdoses in the U.S. Given its prevalence, the treatment of back pain has become one of the avenues through which American adults can become addicted to prescription painkillers. Regardless of which type you choose, it's important you recognize that taking painkillers is risky. At a minimum, you'll want to use them sparingly and at the lowest possible dose. Beyond that, I suggest you seek out alternatives to alleviate pain, including stretching and other forms of exercise. Six Stretches You Can Try at Home to Strengthen Your Lower Back Regardless of your age, daily stretching is beneficial to your health. While you could depend on medication to ease your pain, stretching will be more beneficial in the long run. Many stretches exist to strengthen and protect your lower back, including the six highlighted below.13 If these stretches cause pain, stop doing them and consult your doctor, chiropractor or massage therapist before continuing. You may experience mild discomfort when you begin doing these stretches, especially if you are new to exercise or it has been a long time since you last exercised. My advice is to take it slowly and gradually increase your tolerance to these stretches over time. Baby cobra: Lie on your stomach with your legs together, arms bent and palms on the ground at chest level, elbows bent. Begin with your forehead on the ground. Inhale and lift your chest, keeping the back of your neck long and your chin relaxed. Exhale and return your forehead to the mat. Repeat a few times, focusing on your breath. Bird dog: This stretch engages your back muscles, buttocks and hamstrings, as well as your core and shoulders. Begin on all fours, then lift and extend one leg and the opposite arm at the same time. Hold for three to five breaths. Switch sides and raise and hold the opposite arm and leg for three to five breaths. Cat/cow: Begin on your hands and knees and place your hands directly under your shoulders and your knees under your hips. On your inhalation, drop your belly and lift your gaze up to the ceiling. When you exhale, round your spine so your tailbone drops between your thighs and your head lifts between your arms. Repeat multiple times, slowly, to gently increase spinal mobility. Psoas lunges: Your psoas muscle extends from your lowest vertebrae to the top of your thigh, putting it in a good position to stress your lower back when it becomes tight. A great way to stretch your psoas is through lunges. Begin with your right leg in front of you and your left knee on the floor. Tuck your buttocks slightly and place your hands on your forward knee or your hips. Allow your hips to gently shift forward as you breathe for three to five breaths. Change legs and repeat on the other side. Squat: Separate your legs a little more than hip-distance apart and bend your knees so your thighs are parallel to the ground. Keep your heels on the ground. Press your palms together and hold them at chest height. Use your elbows to release your knees apart. If this is too hard on your hips you can sit on a yoga block, stool or a few books. Maintain the position for three to five breaths. Twist: Twists help rotate and lengthen your spine and can be performed sitting in a chair or while lying or sitting on the ground. Begin on your back and bring your knees up to your chest. Gently allow your legs to fall to one side and turn your torso in the opposite direction, extending your arm. Breathe in this position for 30 seconds and then repeat on the other side. You can do this stretch sitting by raising your arms and twisting gently from your torso. If seated in a chair, you can grip the arm of the chair with one hand and put the other hand on the opposite leg. Extend your spine on the inhale and twist a little further on the exhale. Repeat on the other side. Your Body and Your Low Back Need Regular Exercise Some of these stretches were recommended by Jennifer Brilliant, a certified yoga therapist and medical exercise specialist from Brooklyn, New York, who says, "Our bodies like to move. Movement is like nutrition for the body, giving us wholesome circulation and energy. Engaging in regular activity is important."14 While Brilliant is partial to yoga and Pilates, the truth is any exercise is better than no exercise at all, especially to prevent low back pain. If you have the mobility, you may try biking, dancing, swimming or walking. Even household chores and gardening count as exercise. Movement of any kind is good for your heart, your bones and your muscles. Regardless of the type of exercise you are considering, don't overdo it on your first time out. Overexertion will most certainly cause increased pain and discomfort, which you want to avoid. For that reason, Brilliant advises beginning any exercise or stretching program incrementally. Brilliant also acknowledges the need to customize workouts according to the needs of the individual. Choosing a well-qualified instructor is important. "Not every pose is for every particular body, and a good teacher will help you to modify what you do," she notes.15 Whatever your preference, I encourage you to choose some form of exercise you can commit to doing regularly and get going with it. You will rapidly notice positive changes when you engage in daily exercise, as your body, mind and emotions are all balanced through exercise. If you need some ideas to get started, check out my Peak Fitness Plan. Pain-Relieving Remedies for Addressing Lower Back Pain In the event you are not able to exercise, you may want to try acupuncture, chiropractic or massage, which have been shown to be useful in the treatment low back pain. Applying ice can be helpful immediately following an incident and can be useful to calm down a painful flareup. If you have access to a whirlpool or hot tub, the swirling jets may provide temporary relief. (For your safety, never aim the jets directly at areas of pain.) Beyond that, below are a few of my top herbal recommendations for the natural treatment of chronic low back pain. For additional information, check out my article How to Treat Back Pain Without Dangerous Drugs. Astaxanthin: This oil-soluble antioxidant has potent anti-inflammatory properties; you may need 8 milligrams or more per day for pain relief Boswellia: This anti-inflammatory herb, also known as "Indian frankincense," was effective for many of my former rheumatoid arthritis patients Curcumin: This therapeutic compound found in the spice turmeric has been shown to have potent anti-inflammatory activity; you can take two to three capsules every hour as needed Medical marijuana or CBD oil: Both of these options are known for their pain-relieving qualities. Just make sure it's legal for use in your state Kratom: This plant remedy and psychoactive substance has become a popular opioid substitute,16 but should only be used under the guidance of qualified medical personnel because it can be addictive Low-dose naltrexone (LDN): When administered through a prescription, LDN triggers endorphin production, which can boost your immune function and ease pain Dr. Mercola

    • How to Exercise in Your Target Heart Rate Zone

      By Dr. Mercola Exercise has been a game-changer for me since I first started with it in 1968. My consistent commitment to exercise the last 50 years has improved my health to a level that would not have been possible through diet alone. Integrating some kind of exercise program into your life is the only way to be optimally healthy. After years of doing cardio, I am now a passionate fan of high intensity interval training (HIIT). Not only does HIIT shorten the time of my workouts, but it also elevates my heart rate and strengthens my heart muscle. This year I have been doing a deep dive in molecular biology and have learned that exercise is responsible for increasing PGC-1alpha, which is a transcriptional coactivator that regulates the genes involved in energy metabolism, and more importantly is responsible for increasing your mitochondria in a process called mitochondrial biogenesis. Beyond PGC-1alpha exercise also activates other transcriptional activators Nrf2 and FOXO3a, which are both responsible for improving your response to oxidative stress by increasing superoxide dismutase, catalase and glutathione. I used to believe that diet was responsible for 80 percent of your health and exercise 20 percent but I suspect it is much closer to a 60/40 split. I have painfully learned that chronic cardio is not ideal and that high intensity but brief exertional efforts offer superior metabolic benefits in a shorter time. In order to achieve these benefits it is important to know how to calculate your maximum heart rate (MHR). Accuracy is important because certain high intensity benefits can only be realized when your heart rate is elevated for specific intervals. Overestimating your heartbeat by even 20 beats per minute can make a big difference in the quality of your workout. Let's take a closer look at how and why you should exercise in your target heart rate zone. Understanding Your Heart Rate and What Affects It Most healthy adults have a resting heart rate (RHR) of 60 to 100 beats per minute. Due to their smaller bodies and heart size, infants and children have higher heart rates than adults. The "normal" range for your adult RHR remains consistent as you age. For best results, you can determine your RHR when you are sitting or lying down and when you are calm, relaxed and in good health. If you have a low RHR — anything under 60 beats per minute — it may be a sign of health and not necessarily an indication of a medical problem. Generally speaking, lower RHRs can be a sign of better cardiovascular function and more efficient heart function. If you are a fit, well-conditioned athlete, you may have a RHR as low as 40 beats per minute.1 According to the American Heart Association, the following factors have been shown to affect your heart rate:2 Air temperature: Changes in air temperature and humidity can raise your heart rate by five to 10 beats per minute because your heart has to pump a little more blood to accommodate the weather Body position: Typically, your pulse is the same when you are resting, sitting or standing, but it will elevate temporarily when you move from sitting to standing (it will soon level off again) Body size: If you're very obese, you may have a higher resting pulse than a person of a smaller size, but it is unlikely you will have a heart rate more than 100 Emotions: For sure your emotions can raise your heart rate; particularly if you're stressed or anxious, those feelings will be reflected in your pulse Medication use: Medications can either raise or lower your pulse; antidepressants, beta blockers and opioid painkillers tend to slow your pulse, while too much thyroid medication will quicken it Higher Heart Rate Is Associated With Increased Incidence of Heart Attack While having a heart rate between 60 and 100 beats per minute is considered "normal," research suggests maintaining a heart rate at the lower end of the spectrum will be better for you. A large U.S. cohort study involving 15,680 participants with a mean age of 54 years enrolled in the Atherosclerosis Risk in Communities Study suggests a higher heart rate is associated with a greater incidence of:3 Heart attacks Heart failure Strokes Early death from heart-related and nonheart-related causes During the research, which began in 1987, participant heart rates were recorded at baseline and during follow-up visits about every three years for the next 28 years. Increases in time-updated heart rate — defined as the most recent heart rate value measured prior to an event (or the end of study) — and change in heart rate from the preceding visit were both associated with death, incident heart failure, incident heart attack and stroke. Specifically, with respect to their time-updated heart rate, participants faced a 14 percent greater risk of all-cause mortality for every five beats per minute their heart rate increased prior to an event (e.g., a heart attack or stroke). Similarly, they faced a 12 percent greater risk of all-cause mortality for every five-beats-per-minute increase noted for the change in heart rate measurement. Due to the serious health risks associated with higher RHRs and increases in your heart rate over time, the study authors recommend measuring and tracking your RHR at regular intervals. Other Heart-Related Troubles That May Affect Your Ability to Exercise Chronotropic incompetence (CI) is a condition marked by your heart's inability to increase its rate in proportion to the output that is needed, as in the case of exercise. One pair of researchers suggest CI is "an independent predictor of major adverse cardiovascular events and mortality. It is present in up to one-third of patients with heart failure and contributes to their prominent exertional symptoms and reduced quality of life."4 Not only is it a sign of trouble when your heart can't meet the demands for increased output with respect to exercise and other tasks, but you also face an increased risk of early death if your heart is consistently unable to return to its resting rate after periods of exertion. Research suggests a generalized decrease in vagal activity can be a risk factor for death. To test the hypothesis, a six-year study5 involving more than 2,400 adults with a mean age of 57 years, who did not have a history of heart failure, coronary revascularization or pacemakers, found participants with abnormal values for heart-rate recovery were twice as likely to die than those with normal heart-rate recovery cycles. The study authors stated, "A delayed decrease in the heart rate during the first minute after graded exercise, which may be a reflection of decreased vagal activity, is a powerful predictor of overall mortality."6 How to Determine Your Maximum Heart Rate To maximize the quality and effectiveness of your workouts, you need to determine your heart's maximum capacity for exercise. There are several methods for calculating your MHR. First, you can use the "old-school" method, which involves subtracting your age from 220. If you are a 25-year-old, your MHR would be 195. Some experts believe this method to be inaccurate, especially as you advance beyond age 50.7 You can further personalize your number by testing your heart rate during intense exercise using one of two methods: 1. MHR: Declan Connolly, Ph.D., exercise physiologist and coauthor of the book, "Heart Rate Training: Increase Endurance, Raise Lactate Threshold, and Boost Power," suggests getting your heart rate up as high as you can. He says:8 "A simple test I have proposed over the years is going out onto an outdoor track, jogging 400 meters (1/4 mile) as a light warm-up, then running [the same distance] as fast as you can. Repeat that entire sequence two more times, for a total of six laps — three jogging and three fast [running]. Check your heart rate right after the third set. Whatever that number is after the last lap is a good indication of your MHR." If you are not able to run for whatever reason or may be prone to injury from running, you can complete this exercise on a stationary bike or other machine using the same set structure and time sequence. If you need help, consult a personal trainer. 2. Heart rate reserve (HRR): Dr. Bryant Walrod, team physician at Ohio State University, suggests a different technique that involves first calculating your MHR using this formula: 208 minus (0.7 x your age).9 In this scenario, if you are 25 years old, your target maximum is 190.5 beats per minute. Says Waldrod, "This formula tends to be more accurate as you get older." Next, you need to find your RHR by either using a heart rate monitor or counting your heartbeats for 60 seconds when you are sitting down and feeling relaxed. Finally, use those two numbers to calculate your HRR as follows: MHR minus RHR = HRR. "As you get fitter, your RHR will drop," noted Waldrod. "If you're consistent, your RHR will change, so check in with that number at least annually."10 Fans of HRR suggest it provides a better target heart rate to achieve optimum levels of exertion based on both your maximum and RHR. Four Options for Measuring Your Heart Rate Your pulse is an exact measure of your heart rate because your heart's rhythmic contractions cause increases in your arterial blood pressure that create a noticeable pulse. Although there are 12 places on your body to feel a pulse, the two places known to provide the easiest and most reliable reading are your radial artery (on the inside of your forearm) and your carotid artery (on the side of your neck a short distance from your Adam's apple). Below are four options to measure your heart rate: Manual reading: Sit down and relax for a few minutes and then use two fingers to gently compress either your carotid or radial artery while counting the beats for 60 seconds. This is your heart rate (beats per minute). For accurate results, avoid using your thumb because it has its own pulse, which may confuse the measurement. Electrocardiogram (ECG or EKG): This is a painless test used to record the electrical activity of your heart using small electrode patches attached to your chest, arms and legs. An ECG is the most reliable measurement of your heart rate. Wearable heart rate monitors: As mentioned in the featured video, wearable devices such as chest straps that are wirelessly connected to an exercise machine, fitness tracker or smartwatch are also handy tools to measure your heart rate, especially during intense exercise. Pulse Oximetry: These are devices that you wear on your fingertip that tell you the oxygen saturation of your blood but nearly all of the devices also display your heart rate. Due to the simplicity of their design, smartwatches have inherent limitations but they are still a useful tool to achieve real-time heart-rate data, just be sure to put it in airplane mode. Most certainly, during periods of intense exercise, it will be easier to track your heart rate using an electronic device versus trying to take manual measurements. Accuracy is important when tracking your heart rate because reaching your specific zones is the key to achieving maximum calorie and fat burning during your workouts. The Importance of Getting in the Zone During Exercise For exercise to be effective, you need to know your heart rate and work out to the degree that your body "gets in the zone" (your heart rate zone) and stays there for a defined period of time. In this case, the zone can be one of three levels and each one provides different potential benefits for your workout. You can use either your calculated MHR or your HRR to determine the following numbers: Aerobic/low intensity: 50 to 75 percent of MHR or HRR Anaerobic/moderate intensity: 75 to 85 percent of MHR or HRR Anaerobic/high intensity: 85-plus percent of MHR or HRR Once again, if you are 25 years old, you have a low intensity range of 95 to 143, a moderate intensity range of 143 to 162 and a high intensity range of 162 and above. The low intensity range is consistent with conventional cardio exercise that is usually performed in 30- to 60-minute segments. Moderate intensity exercise is characterized by bursts or intervals lasting one to three minutes. High intensity work takes places in the shorter bursts or intervals lasting just 10 to 45 seconds. After years of doing mostly cardio, I am now a passionate advocate for peak fitness, which is my favorite form of HIIT. I love peak fitness because it pushes my heart to near-maximum effort. If you are unfamiliar with this type of workout, check out my "What Is Peak Fitness? infographic." Additionally you will increase nitric oxide production, which has enormous cardiovascular benefits. Another option is to join a club focused on getting your heart into the high intensity zone. Heart Rate-Based Exercise May Have You Seeing Orange If you are a fan of heart-rate based exercise but may not be motivated to do it on your own, you may want to check out Orangetheory Fitness (OTF),11,12 a franchised fitness studio with 1,000 locations around the globe and upward of 623,000 members. The first OTF studio opened in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, in 2010 and the hallmark of the franchise is the focus on heart-rate monitoring for the purpose of achieving what they call "afterburn," the ability to burn calories long after your workout ends — assuming you reached a sufficiently high level of intensity, near your MHR. Because tracking your heart rate through five defined target zones is the cornerstone of an OTF workout, calculating your MHR is one of the first activities you'll do. From there, your MHR will guide all of your workouts, which change daily. During a typical 60-minute OTF session, you will perform various exercises and use several different tools and machines, including rowers and treadmills, as well as varied levels of effort, to maximize your heart rate. All exercises can be customized to individual needs and all activities and interval work, including reps and timing, are displayed on monitors. No matter what your approach to exercise, I cannot stress enough the importance of tracking your heart rate and paying attention to your target heart rate zone to give yourself and your heart the best workout possible. I also highly recommend core work, strength training and stretching, as well as achieving 10,000 to 15,000 steps a day. After all, getting regular exercise — particularly specific workouts that hit the three intensity zones — is one activity you must embrace if you want to take control of your health. Dr. Mercola