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Exercise

Research Spotlight

The databases often return hundreds of medical studies for a single wellness approach. This section summarizes a sampling of five studies – providing just a taste of the available research. These Spotlights were not selected because they are the most favorable or the most recent, but to provide you an introduction to the more extensive research you'll uncover searching the four databases found in the “Research” section of this site.

  • Dancing Is Powerful Exercise for Slowing the Aging Process
    A 2017 study from neuroscientists at the German Center for Neurodegenerative Diseases compared the impact of two types of exercise on older people: a traditional endurance training program (cycling, Nordic walking, etc.) vs. a mix of dance classes (jazz, line dancing, etc.). While both forms of exercise increased the areas of the brain that decline with age – only dancing lead to significant behavioral changes ( like improved balance, etc.)
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  • Group Exercise Improves Quality of Life and Stress More Than Individual Exercise
    A small study (University of New England College of Osteopathic Medicine, 2017) compared group exercise to individual exercise, finding that while the solitary exercisers studied worked out twice as long, those doing a group exercise class experienced significant improvements in all quality of life measures: mental (12.6%), physical (24.8%), and emotional (26%) - with a 26% reduction in stress levels.
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  • Walking in Nature Beat the Treadmill
    A small study from Austria’s University of Innsbruck (2017) suggested that walking in nature has key benefits over comparable exercise on the gym treadmill. People that hiked for three hours on a mountain trail (even though it was actually more strenuous) reported that it was less strenuous than the same time spent walking on a treadmill. And people’s mood scores were much higher after the outdoor hike.
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  • Cost of Sedentary Children is Staggering
    A new, first-ever study from Johns Hopkins University (2017) revealed the incredible healthcare costs that societies would save if the children who are currently inactive (a skyrocketing number) exercised just an hour a day. Using very complex computer simulations, the researchers found that the U.S. alone would save $120 billion annually. This is a mounting global problem, as research shows that in Europe and the U.S. physical activity tends to peak at age 7, and plummets throughout adolescence.
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  • Dancing Is Better for Brain than Brisk Walking or Stretching
    A 2017 University of Illinois-Urbana study suggested that there might be something uniquely beneficial to the brain about social dancing. Scientists analyzed the impact of country dance (with intricate moves from partner to partner) on older people’s brain function, compared with brisk walking and stretching/balance training. After six months, only the “social dance" group showed improvement in integrity of the fornix (i.e, processing speed). Researchers concluded movement mixed with socializing might be a force for slowing brain changes that come with aging.
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  • Shorter, Weekend-Only Workouts as Effective as Those Spread Out Over the Week
    A large 2016 study from Longborough University, UK (63,591 people tracked over 15 years) found that the “weekend warrior” exerciser (jamming their weekly exercise into a couple of workouts) lessened the risk of early death as much as those doing frequent workouts throughout the week. People that exercised in any amount were 29 percent less likely to die prematurely. This advantage remained the same whether people worked out three or more times during the week or compressed their exercise into a session or two.
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  • Studies Indicate Exercise Prevents People from Developing Depression
    A global meta-analysis of large-scale past studies (aggregating data on more than 1.1 million people) found that the link between fitness/regular exercise and mental health is strong. Those identified as in the lowest third for aerobic fitness levels were 75% more likely to have received a diagnosis of depression than those in the top third, while those in the middle third were almost 25% more likely to develop depression than those most fit.
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  • Learn Something, Wait a Few Hours, then Exercise to Build Memory
    A study from Radboud University-Netherlands and the University of Edinburgh (2016) indicated that delaying exercise for a few hours after learning something led to greater memory recall than exercising immediately after studying. Participants were given a standard visual and spatial learning test, and then two-thirds did follow-up exercise: half did interval training 35 minutes after the test and half did it four hours later. Those who exercised four hours after recreated the picture locations most accurately, and MRIs showed their brain activity had a more consistent pattern of neural activity.
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  • 1 Minute of Intense Exercise Equals 45 Minutes of Moderate
    A small, but high quality study from McMaster University (2016) found that 60 seconds of intense exertion proved as successful at improving health/fitness as three-quarters of an hour of moderate exercise. Testing out-of-shape men on stationary bicycles, one group did 45 minutes of cycling at a moderate pace (multiple sessions over three weeks), while the other group sprinted all-out in three, 20-second bursts. The surprising finding: both groups saw identical gains. Endurance improved 20%, and insulin resistance, and the number and function of certain microscopic structures in the muscles related to energy production and oxygen consumption, all jumped the same amount.
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  • Walking, Swimming, Dancing, Even Gardening — Are Alzheimer's Fighters
    A study from the University of California, Los Angeles (2016), which looked at ten years of data from 900+ people over 65, found that brain scans of participants that walked, swum, cycled, ballroom danced, or even gardened (even a few times a week) showed substantially more gray matter (the parts of the brain related to memory and high-level thinking) than their peers. And those study participants also had 50% less risk five years later of having memory decline or of developing Alzheimer’s.
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  • Running Created More New Brain Cells in Rats than Weight Training or High-Intensity Interval Training
    A 2016 study from the University of Jyvaskyla (Finland), performed on rats, found that running drove the production of the most new brain neurons (neurogenesis). For the first time, scientists compared the effect on the brain of running, weight training (rats climbed walls with weights attached to their tails) and high-intensity interval training (sprinting on treadmills/slowing/repeating). A substance was injected in the rats’ brains to track the creation of new brain cells and the runners showed by far the most neurogenesis: their hippocampus teemed with new neurons, while the high-intensity interval training showed far fewer neurons created, and the weight training showed no neurogenesis.
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  • Exercise Is Best Prevention for Lower Back Pain
    A 2016 meta-review of the universe of high-quality studies by George Institute for Global Health, University of Sydney, found that education on its own, and orthotics/shoe insoles and back belts, provided no prevention against lower back pain – but exercise’s protective effect was significant. No matter what kind of exercise program, it nearly halved the likelihood of another back pain episode within the next year.
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  • Large Study Finds Women Who Spend 6+ Hours/Day Sitting 10% More Likely to Get Cancer
    Few studies have analyzed time spent sitting as it relates to total mortality. But a large (123,216 individuals) 2015 study from the American Cancer Society found that women who sit for more than six hours/day were (over the 13-year study period) 10% more likely to get cancer and 37% more likely to die than those who sat less than three hours/day. Notable was the significantly increased risk of bone marrow, breast and ovarian cancers. Surprisingly, the “sitting risk” was lower for men: six-plus-hour-a-day male sitters were 18% more likely to die, but the cancer risk was not considerably higher. The researchers concluded that public health guidelines should be refined to include reducing time spent sitting in addition to promoting physical activity.
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  • Harvard/NCI Study Reveals Optimum Levels of Exercise in Avoiding Premature Death
    Results of a National Cancer Institute/Harvard University study of 661,000 adults (mostly middle-aged) revealed at least some of the recommended exercise (150 minutes/week) produced the most dramatic longevity gains (20% less likely to die prematurely), with gradual upticks to around 450 minutes/week (39% less likely to die prematurely). Extreme athletics produced more modest gains.
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  • Early Fitness Leads to Greater Mental Acuity Later in Life
    A 2014 University of Minnesota study (2,747 participants, recruited at ages 18-30 in 1985/86) indicated that individuals fit in their 20s are significantly more likely to be mentally sharp in middle age. Those that had initially done better on a treadmill test exhibited better verbal memory and faster psychomotor speed at ages 43 -55. And if they had kept their fitness up in middle age, they did even better.
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