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The Underrated Benefits of Walking

While no one may be posting on social media or bragging about that really long stroll they took yesterday, there are countless reasons to get outside and go on a walk. 

High-impact workouts like HIIT training and running have their place in a well-balanced fitness routine, yet many times, they are not evenly balanced with other low-impact exercise. Plus, for people who need to give their joints and muscles a break, or who want to connect with a friend while getting their movement in, walking is a much better alternative to the couch or your desk. 

Research shows that walking for just 15 to 40 minutes a day five days a week can significantly impact your health, according to Livestrong. Walking has been shown to reduce body fat, improve core strength, ease lower back pain, and prevent heart attack and stroke. It’s also an easy, free way to change your surroundings, get a breath of fresh air, and reduce stress during the day. Walking has been shown to positively impact emotional wellbeing, increase endorphins, reduce fatigue, and decrease stress hormones. 

Like any form of physical activity, walking can increase the functioning of your body’s immune system. Harvard Medical School reports that individuals who are more active are sick for a shorter amount of time, and experience less severe symptoms. 

“Researchers already know that any kind of physical activity blunts the risk of breast cancer,” wrote Harvard Medical School. “But an American Cancer Society study that zeroed in on walking found that women who walked seven or more hours a week had a 14% lower risk of breast cancer than those who walked three hours or fewer per week. And walking provided this protection even for the women with breast cancer risk factors, such as being overweight or using supplemental hormones.”

The Harvard Health article outlined other surprising benefits of walking, such as its ability to counteract the effect of weight-promoting genes, and to curb cravings for chocolate and sugary snacks. 

According to Dr. Thomas Frieden, former director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, walking is "the closest thing we have to a wonder drug.”

The next time you have a meeting or a coffee date with a friend, why not propose a walk and talk? Instead of that heavy-traffic commute to work or the gym, next time, give yourself time to walk. You may find that you have a more enjoyable time when you get outside of the box, and feel better too.


The Benefits of Shaking Up Your Workout with Dance

Most of us don’t go out for a night dancing in order to squeeze in a good workout. Yet dancing is one of the best exercises for our mental, physical and emotional health. It’s one of those things that immediately after we do it, we ask ourselves why we waited so long. But most of us still don’t consider adding dance to our workout routine. Studies show that getting out of your seat and into a dance flow can help you lose weight, stay flexible, reduce stress, improve your social life, and bring countless more benefits to your life. 

Instead of breaking up the day at your desk with a circuit workout or a short jog, consider turning on your favorite song and dancing like no one's watching.

Since dance is exercise, the physical benefits are similar to that of other cardio workouts. Unlike high impact exercises like running, dancing is gentle on the body. It can also improve flexibility, easing joint pain and alleviating post-exercise soreness. Also unlike other exercises that emphasize repetitive or linear movement, dance allows for the body to move organically and without structure. This not only gives way to creative expression, but can also activate new synapses in the brain and prevent injury. 

"Movements that we typically do in our daily life, like walking, taking the stairs, and common workouts like treadmills and cycling, occur in the sagittal plane, but dance works your body from all planes, including lateral and rotational, which turns on and conditions all muscles, meaning no muscle is left behind,” explains Jonathan Tylicki, the director of education for boutique fitness studio AKT, per HealthLine

Another unique benefit of dance versus other forms of exercise is its ability to improve balance through rhythm and music. 

On a mental level, dancing can improve cognitive performance. While it may be true that the best dancers are those that don’t think about it, most of us can agree that dancing requires a high level of presence and brain power. This is required to learn a new style of dance, tune into the rhythm of a new song, or sync up with a dance partner. 

A study in the New England Journal of Medicine supports the notion that dancing boosts memory and may prevent the development of dementia. According to the researchers, dancing involves both a mental effort and social interaction, which explains why it was the only one out of 11 different types of physical activity that lowered participants’ risk of dementia. 

This may be explained by the fact that aerobic exercise has been shown to reverse volume loss in the hippocampus, the part of the brain responsible for memory retention, per Everyday Health

Emotionally, dancing can bring about stress relief, improve self-esteem and promote positive emotions. Another study conducted in 2012 by researchers at North Dakota’s Minot State University found that Latin-style dance programs such as Zumba lifted participants’ mood and certain cognitive skills, such as visual recognition and decision-making, per Harvard Medical School

The benefits of dance are boundless and will affect every individual in a unique way. That said, maybe the most incredible thing about dancing is that it is the great equalizer. Anyone with mobility in their body, even if limited, can participate. This makes it a great social activity, and a fun way to connect with others.

With all of the different forms of dance that exist, such as ballet, hip hop, tap dancing, swing dancing, salsa, belly dancing, pole dancing, and more, there’s bound to be something for everyone.


Fitness and Nutrition Plans Key to Cancer Survival and Recovery, Says New Report

Newly diagnosed cancer patients that place an emphasis on their physical and psychological wellbeing have a better chance of survival and recovery, according to a report published by a group of charities. It could also help them access treatments which would have otherwise not been tolerated. 

“People are less vulnerable to the side effects of cancer treatment if they are as healthy as possible, physically and psychologically,” read the paper. 

The report by Macmillan Cancer Support, the Royal College of Anaesthetists, the National Institute for Health Research Cancer and Nutrition Collaboration, supported the notion of preventative action and “prehabilitation” as soon as possible. The charities suggest that cancer patients should seek out personalized recommendations to optimize their lifestyle, so maximize their resilience to treatment and improve quality of life. 

Prehabilitation includes quitting unhealthy habits, like smoking, intaking excess alcohol, sugar, and drugs, and adopting a more active lifestyle. Specifically, the new report says that those diagnosed with cancer should increase the percentage of fruits and vegetables in their diet, limit alcohol to a maximum of 14 units a week, maintain a healthy weight, stop smoking, and exercise at least 150 minutes per week. 

The report was backed by a series of studies showing that exercise can reduce chances of survival. For example, Yale University researchers found that a daily brisk walk of just 25 minutes lowered the mortality rate among women with breast cancer by nearly 50%. 

While the mental and physical weight of a diagnosis may make it difficult for people to jump to change their lifestyle for the better before treatment, the study offered expert advice for exercising with pain. 

Recommendations include “knowing your boundaries,” which means stopping before you feel significant stiffness and pain, and being okay with moderate soreness. For pain that will not resolve itself, it is important to connect with a physiotherapist or a personal trainer. 

To get all of the benefits of your workout while staying safe, you must also know the correct form. “Learn the right way to do big moves such as squats and deadlifts, as these are the moves where you can injure yourself or feel more pain,” said chartered physiotherapist Joseph Moore, from the Center for Human Performance. He recommends giving your body a 48-hour wait period between heavy or high impact muscle work. Within that period, you can do exercises that work other muscles, such as swimming.

Moore emphasizes the importance of stretching, which is vital for recovery and also lengthens and builds up muscle. 

“It takes the muscles through a full range of movement and helps blood flow, which flushes out the waste products such as lactic acid that might build up from your exercise programme.” He recommends yoga or Pilates once or twice a week.

“We want to see prehabilitation implemented soon after diagnosis so that people living with cancer feel empowered to improve their health and get the personalised care they need,” added Moore.


fitbit

FitBit offers wireless-enabled, wearable activity trackers designed to help you become more active, eat a more well-rounded diet, sleep better and ultimately, make you healthier by measuring data such as the number of steps walked, heart rate, quality of sleep, steps climbed, and other personal metrics involved in fitness. The Fitbit lines includes options you can wear on your wrist or clip to your clothes. Some Fitbit models track your heart rate, while others offer fewer features but are more affordable. For more information, click here.


MySwimPro

This app serves as a personal swim coach to help you be the best swimmer you can and get the most from your workouts wherever you are. You’ll choose from one of five workout categories and learn from the best, set goals and improve your technique. Geared for all levels of swimming, from beginning to very experienced. Workouts are 100% personalized to your swimming goal.


The Last Pick

"If you can dream it, it can happen." In this heartening book, Boston Marathon race director and motivational speaker David McGillivray shares the challenges he has overcome to inspire readers to similar triumphs in their own lives. Click here to order.


MapMyFitness

This family of apps including MapMyRide, MapMyRun, MapMyWalk, MapMyHike and MapMyFitness gives users the tools to map, record and share their exercise routes and workouts with each other. Includes 160+ million of the best running, cycling and walking routes around the world. No charge for basic services. Premium membership available for a fee. For more information, visit www.mapmyfitness.com


Misfit

The Misfit line of wearable activity trackers are unique in design, affordability and count steps, calories, distance, sleep quality and duration. Water resistant and designed to be worn on pants, shirts, shoes, lapels and even a key chain as well as the wrist, Misfit wearables do not require charging. The product line includes a wearable tailored to tracking swim workouts. Products sync with the Misfit smartphone app. Touch responsive, doubles as a music remote, selfie trigger, presentation clicker or button to enable a variety or home devices and web services. For more information, click here.


Garmin

While Garmin offers a range of wearable fitness trackers at a variety of prices, the Garmin Vivosmart HR+ consistently receives high marks. Named Fitness Tracker of the Year at the Wareable Tech Awards 2016, it includes a great mix of activity, heart rate, sleep and GPS tracking. For more information, click here. To see the entire line of Garmin fitness trackers, click here.