Tag Archives: exercise motivation

Put Your Heart into It: Exercise and Heart Health

Imagine that you’re a sailor on a sailboat. You and your four friends have been trained to sail, but you’re still new at it. The wind pushes you along peacefully for a while, but then a storm rises. It’s all hands on deck, working frantically against the wind and waves. You make it through that storm and a few more that follow and then one day you realize that you and your friends are stronger, faster, and better sailors than you were before that first storm. When the weather is good, it only takes three of you to man the boat where it once took all five.

heart sailors_0001Exercise is a storm for your heart. Exercise makes your heart work harder for a while which at first can feel like you’re being keelhauled*, but your heart is a fast learner. Before long it’s so used to the battening down the hatches that when your heart is at rest, it can take it easy. Studies show that the resting heart rate of people who exercise is lower than the resting heart rate of landlubbers*. A lubber’s heart (land or otherwise) is not being challenged, so it’s weaker and has to work harder to do less than an exercised heart. More storms makes for better sailors.

Storms have a way of cleaning the air because the extra wind and water (i.e. rain) remove the dust and particles. When you exercise, your blood moves faster which allows it to pulse into every tiny capillary at the tips of your fingers and toes. This allows the blood to bring more oxygen and nutrients to the cells and allows it to remove more junk from those cells. The strong blood flow also helps keep the arteries themselves clean, flexible, and inflammation free. It’s like a storm watering your garden and cleaning the air at the same time. Or sailors scrubbing the deck from jib to mizzenmast. Those are officially now my favorite sailing terms.

heart stormInactivity (keeping your ship docked, so to speak) is one of the major risk factors for heart disease. Exercise lowers your risk for heart disease by 45%. And that’s exercise at the recommended 2.5 hours of exercise every week level. Even if you’re a landlubber who spends most of her time in the brig and only halfheartedly hoists the mainsail, you’re still reducing your risk of heart disease by a LOT. Anchors aweigh! By the way, those recommended 2.5 hours can be 30 minutes per day five days per week, or 2.5 hours on a weekend, or 25 ten minute bouts of movement sprinkled throughout the week. A bit of climbing the rigging here, a bit of casting off there, maybe a bit of barnacle removal just for fun. Your heart gets stronger with every minute of exercise you do.

We can’t talk about sailing without adding pirates to the mix. Arr, Matey, did you know that your muscles are pirates? Well, they are when you exercise! Our bodies have strict rules about how oxygen is transported, how glucose is absorbed, and so on. When an exercise storm hits, pirates can break those rules. Under the strain of exercise, your pirate muscles are able to steal oxygen and glucose (i.e. energy) straight from the blood instead of waiting for a delivery. This is a very good thing. The heart has to deliver oxygen and glucose to the muscles anyway, so pirate muscles save it some work. I never said they were smart pirates; just that they steal.

heart-pirates.jpgHere are some heart-pumping exercise ideas to get you started:

Walking (to the mailbox, across the parking lot, around the block, etc), biking, running (after toddlers, not your mouth), jogging, vacuuming (under the beds counts double in my book), gardening, roller skating, swimming, jumping (like on a trampoline, not when you see a spider), playing tag (as in chase, not on social media), taking the stairs, jumping jacks (or jills or up the hills).

 

*Keelhauled: a truly awful punishment from sailing days that usually ended in death. Exercise can feel uncomfortable, but if it feels like you’re tied to a rope and being passed under the keel of a ship, maybe pick a different exercise.

*Landlubber: a lubber is old slang for a person who is lazy. Sailors added the land part to make fun of non-sailors. In modern terms we say “couch potato”.

 

Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ Matthew 22:37

 

Sail back next week for Her Heart Sank onto the Bed: Sleep and Heart Health

 

References:

Sailing terms – http://brethrencoast.com/Pirate_Glossary.html

Exercise and heart health – http://www.nytimes.com/health/guides/specialtopic/physical-activity/exercise’s-effects-on-the-heart.html?print=1&mcubz=3

Exercise and heart health – http://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/heart_vascular_institute/clinical_services/centers_excellence/womens_cardiovascular_health_center/patient_information/health_topics/exercise_heart.html

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Move it or Lose it Brain Cells

brain33My brain works out several times a week. It seems to enjoy it—especially the surge of endorphins—and man, when it feels stressed, it can’t wait to get moving. I wish I’d taken a before and after picture so you could see how much my brain has bulked up since it started working out.

How does my brain work out? Easy. It tells my limbs to move: my legs walk or dance, my arms lift weights or push me up, and sometimes it gets all four limbs flailing in unison in the pool. The limbs get my heart pumping and the extra blood feeds and cleans my brain. My brain is getting more fit every day.

“(The brain) is an adaptable organ that can be molded by input in much the same way as a muscle can be sculpted by lifting barbells. The more you use it, the stronger and more flexible it becomes” (Spark). We usually think about exercise’s benefits to our muscles and lungs, but studies are proving over and over again that our brains benefit greatly from exercise as well.

move-it-or-lose-itLet’s take learning, for example. A few schools in Texas increased recess for their kindergarten and first grade students. With an hour of recess per day, those students’ grades and behavior improved. When Naperville Central High School near Chicago beefed up their physical education classes, their students not only became physically fit, but they finished first in the world on an international science exam.

How does this brain-exercise connection happen? Dr. Ratey explains it well and thoroughly in his book Spark, but I’m going to sum it up in three words: exercise births neurons. Your brain makes new neurons all the time, but when you exercise, your brain puts the neuron factory in overdrive. Your brain is then swimming in neurons looking to make a connection and you are primed to learn, process, and remember. Add to that the extra blood flow bringing more oxygen and nutrients to the brain and what you get is a cocktail of neurological growth serum.

Learning is not limited to school scenarios: exercise helps the brain battle depression and addiction because the brain is primed to learn a new reaction to old situations. Exercise also boosts the production of serotonin, norepinephrine, and dopamine, three neurotransmitters that help regulate thoughts and emotions and keeps us flying level. Studies have shown exercise to be as effective as medication in treating depression and that exercise reduces the risk of depression. I’m not saying “cure” and I’m not telling you to dump your pills if you take them. I’m saying give your brain a workout because your brain is capable of amazing things and regular exercise is proven to help.

sparkWhen my brain works out, it’s even protecting itself against the natural effects of aging. As your brain ages, the production of new neurons slows down and the cells it has die more easily than when you’re young. The brain can actually shrivel and shrink over time. Exercise is one of the few ways to combat this trend because it boosts neuron production and makes your cells harder to kill. It’s like car maintenance: if you drive your car all the time, you’re going to maintain it. The older the car gets, the more prone it is to breaking down, but if you keep it well maintained, the car will last a long time. Exercise equals driving the car: the body is forced to maintain the cells because you’re using them. If you stop using your cells, they rust away and die. “If your brain isn’t actively growing, then it’s dying” (Spark).

Working out makes my brain work better, feel better, learn better and react better. We are ‘use it or lose it’ creatures, so get your body moving so you don’t lose your mind!

 

 

Those who live according to the flesh have their minds set on what the flesh desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires. The mind governed by the flesh is death, but the mind governed by the Spirit is life and peace. Romans 8:5-6 (NIV)

 

 

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2006/12/061219122200.htm Exercise Appears To Improve Brain Function Among Younger People

 http://www.today.com/parents/want-kids-listen-more-fidget-less-try-more-recess-school-t65536 Want Kids to Listen More and Fidget Less?

Spark, John J. Ratey, MD and Eric Hagerman. Little, Brown and Company, New York 2008

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e1aNERoMndU Kim Bevill TED talk

Images courtesy of Dr. Odd (Brain), 

Buttocks Reveal All Natural Botox (Part 2)

Last week we learned that exercise helps our buttock skin to look perkier under the microscopes of research scientists. This week we’re talking about why exercise benefits skin. The biggest benefit of exercise is blood flow.

blood flow skin healthWhen you get your heart pumping faster with exercise, your blood flows faster, which allows the blood to take more laps around your body per minute—30% more laps per minute. So instead of delivering blood with its load of oxygen and nutrients 60-100 times in one minute like it usually does, that ventricle visitation increases to 95-150 times in one minute. Tiny arteries in the skin open up and the nutrient-oxygen payload is delivered everywhere.

Why is this important? Your cells need a certain amount of nutrients and oxygen (let’s call it Nutr-O2) to live. When they get extra Nutr-O2, they can use the bounty to do things like repair damage to the skin from the sun and pollutants. They can increase the skin’s collagen production (in this case the collagen production of Les Misérables Wrinkles, a musical about a French collagen student, Jean They’regone, who smooths fine lines and reduces wrinkles). Fibroblasts are the theater geek cells in the skin responsible for collagen production. As they age, these fibroblasts acquire mortgages and dependents which require them to quit the theater and get real jobs. This results in fewer, lazier fibroblasts remaining in the campus theater troupe… I mean skin. The extra Nutr-O2s are a surprise inheritance that funds the fibroblasts and gets them back into production.

Les Misérables Wrinkles

Les Misérables Wrinkles

Don’t forget the veins! Extra Nutr-O2s are delivered, but the blood doesn’t return to the heart empty-membraned: blood carries waste away from the skin. Instead of removing free radicals and pollutants 60 times per minute, it takes out the trash 95 times per minute: that’s a lot of trash. Exercise benefits every organ of the body, including the largest one—the skin— so get your body moving. Your buttock will thank you.

Note: Theater majors are wonderful people. The phrase “collagen production” was simply too good to pass up. If I’ve offended any theater people, I encourage them to respond with a one act play.

Listen to advice and accept discipline, and at the end you will be counted among the wise. —Proverbs 19:20 (NIV)

 

Magic that Makes the Brain Work

kim bevillWhat is the magic that makes the brain work? I’ll give you a hint! It’s one of the following:

a. sleep

b. vegetables

c. exercise

Take a guess and watch this video.

The “Magic that Makes the Brain Work” by Kim Bevill

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e1aNERoMndU

For those of you who hate quizzes, guessing, and/or TED talks, I want you to stand up, do ten jumping jacks, ten lunges, and touch your toes. Thank you. Now you may return to whatever you were doing and you will find that you do it better because your brain is happy.