8 Resolutions Health Experts Want You to Make

Physician John Rush sees his patients make the same mistake every year: They set New Year’s resolutions on Jan. 1 and expect to implement them the very next day. But a no-prep plan is a sure-fail one, he says. “The most meaningful goals we make in our lives take some planning, and we need to set our lives up for change and for success,” says Rush, COO of the age management medicine company Cenegenics. That’s why now’s the time to start preparing for whatever change you want to make in 2015. Buy the right equipment and clothing, find supportive friends and family, and devise a plan for when you feel like cashing in on your commitment, Rush suggests.

And if you’re stumped on what that goal will be? Steal an idea from health professionals, who shared what they’d like to see their patients and clients resolve to do in 2015.

Set a specific goal.

“Get in better shape.” “Be healthier.” “ Lose weight.” Those goals, no matter how common, are too broad, says Justin Weis, a personal trainer and owner of Summit Fitness in Richmond, Virginia. He suggests picking a specific event to prepare for instead, whether it’s something grand like climbing a mountain or something simple like running a 5K. “Having a goal that you are driving toward, rather than something like holiday pounds you are trying to get away from, makes the journey much easier,” Weis says. “It’s a change of perspective that turns it from a negative mindset to something positive, which can make all the difference.”

Commit to a ‘movement modality.’

“Don’t let exercise become another thing to check off your list,” says Angela Meyer, a yoga instructor and regional director of group exercise at the YMCA in the District of Columbia. Instead, consider adopting a “movement modality,” or a physical activity that will inspire you to be not only physically healthier, but also “mentally, emotionally and spiritually engaged and alive,” Meyer says. To find your modality, ask yourself what type of movement will allow you to express your passion and creative energy. Is it martial arts? Yoga? Dance? Rock climbing? All those activities, Meyer says, “allow you to discover something deeper about yourself, while also achieving your physical goals.”

Personalize your oral health care.

Take the typical resolution to floss regularly a step further this year by resolving to talk to your dentist about how genetics might impact your dental health, says William Giannobile, chair of the Department of Periodontics and Oral Medicine at the University of Michigan School of Dentistry. Just like heart health, cancer risk and weight, oral health is influenced by your genes. Knowing where you stand can help guide how often you see your dentist and the type of care you get, he says. A bonus? You’ll improve your overall health, too. “Medical breakthroughs in genetics, genomics and risk factors for diseases and behaviors show how a patient’s oral health affects their total well-being,” Giannobile says.

Wear sunglasses.

If you’re seeking a resolution that’s both fashion-forward and healthy, Dennis Levi, a professor of optometry and vision science at the University of California-Berkeley, has one for you: “Wear shades when out in bright sunlight,” he says. Make sure you choose a pair that protects against ultraviolet radiation, which, in excess, can cause cataracts and lead to damage of the cornea and retina, Levi says.

Get more quality sleep – every night.

Want to make a resolution that will improve nearly all areas of your life – and looks? One word: sleep, says dermatologist Jessica Krant, founder of Art of Dermatology in New York and assistant clinical professor of dermatology at SUNY Downstate Medical Center. “Sleep is our best friend, and it allows everything to be better,” she says. “When we get good sleep, it improves our body’s ability to remove toxins at night, which improves our health overall and especially our skin.” Sleep also suppresses the release of the hunger hormone ghrelin, making weight loss and management easier. “It proves there really is such a thing as beauty sleep,” Krant says. To get more quality sleep, the National Sleep Foundation recommends going to bed the same time every night, getting daily exercise, avoiding naps and steering clear of alcohol, cigarettes and heavy meals in the evenings.

Be more mindful.

How often do you catch yourself ruminating about the past or worrying about the future? Chances are, too often, says Eric Endlich, a psychologist in Needham, Massachusetts, who works with teens, adults and couples. He suggests resolving to spend just one minute each day thinking about nothing but the present moment. “Staying mindful can alleviate stress and anxiety and help us appreciate what we have right now,” he says. Another way to improve your mental health in the new year is to recognize negative thoughts and ask yourself if there’s another way to view the situation, Endlich says. “Negative thoughts are automatic and effortless, and often irrational and distorted,” he says. “By challenging them regularly, we discover how often there are other, more helpful ways to look at things.”

Give up fad diets.

If there’s one surefire way to fail at keeping your New Year’s resolution, it’s to commit to a fad diet. “They just don’t work!” says Charlotte Markey, a psychology professor at Rutgers University who studies weight management. If your goal is sustainable weight loss, you’ll be more successful if you think long-term about healthy eating, says Markey, author of the forthcoming book “Smart People Don’t Diet.” “Don’t deprive yourself of the food you love, but make logical, moderate, realistic choices concerning food,” she says.

See your doctor.

If there’s one thing health professionals want you do to in 2015, it’s to simply pay them a visit. Women especially should schedule an annual visit with an OB-GYN or a primary care doctor, says Shelly Holmstrom, an OB-GYN in Tampa, Florida, and associate professor at the University of South Florida’s Morsani College of Medicine. “Although Pap tests are not necessarily needed each year, many women have gynecological issues that need to be addressed,” she says.

Copyright 2014 U.S. News & World Report

by Anna Medaris Miller

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How Exercise Changes Our DNA

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We all know that exercise can make us fitter and reduce our risk for illnesses such as diabetes and heart disease. But just how, from start to finish, a run or a bike ride might translate into a healthier life has remained baffling.

Now new research reports that the answer may lie, in part, in our DNA. Exercise, a new study finds, changes the shape and functioning of our genes, an important stop on the way to improved health and fitness.

The human genome is astonishingly complex and dynamic, with genes constantly turning on or off, depending on what biochemical signals they receive from the body. When genes are turned on, they express proteins that prompt physiological responses elsewhere in the body.

Scientists know that certain genes become active or quieter as a result of exercise. But they hadn’t understood how those genes know how to respond to exercise.

Enter epigenetics, a process by which the operation of genes is changed, but not the DNA itself. Epigenetic changes occur on the outside of the gene, mainly through a process called methylation. In methylation, clusters of atoms, called methyl groups, attach to the outside of a gene like microscopic mollusks and make the gene more or less able to receive and respond to biochemical signals from the body.

Scientists know that methylation patterns change in response to lifestyle. Eating certain diets or being exposed to pollutants, for instance, can change methylation patterns on some of the genes in our DNA and affect what proteins those genes express. Depending on which genes are involved, it may also affect our health and risk for disease.

Far less has been known about exercise and methylation. A few small studies have found that a single bout of exercise leads to immediate changes in the methylation patterns of certain genes in muscle cells. But whether longer-term, regular physical training affects methylation, or how it does, has been unclear.

So for a study published this month in Epigenetics, scientists at the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm recruited 23 young and healthy men and women, brought them to the lab for a series of physical performance and medical tests, including a muscle biopsy, and then asked them to exercise half of their lower bodies for three months.

One of the obstacles in the past to precisely studying epigenetic changes has been that so many aspects of our lives affect our methylation patterns, making it difficult to isolate the effects of exercise from those of diet or other behaviors.

The Karolinska scientists overturned that obstacle by the simple expedient of having their volunteers bicycle using only one leg, leaving the other unexercised. In effect, each person became his or her own control group. Both legs would undergo methylation patterns influenced by his or her entire life; but only the pedaling leg would show changes related to exercise.

The volunteers pedaled one-legged at a moderate pace for 45 minutes, four times per week for three months. Then the scientists repeated the muscle biopsies and other tests with each volunteer.

Not surprisingly, the volunteers’ exercised leg was more powerful now than the other, showing that the exercise had resulted in physical improvements.

But the changes within the muscle cells’ DNA were more intriguing. Using sophisticated genomic analysis, the researchers determined that more than 5,000 sites on the genome of muscle cells from the exercised leg now featured new methylation patterns. Some showed more methyl groups; some fewer. But the changes were significant and not found in the unexercised leg.

Interestingly, many of the methylation changes were on portions of the genome known as enhancers that can amplify the expression of proteins by genes. And gene expression was noticeably increased or changed in thousands of the muscle-cell genes that the researchers studied.

Most of the genes in question are known to play a role in energy metabolism, insulin response and inflammation within muscles. In other words, they affect how healthy and fit our muscles — and bodies — become.

They were not changed in the unexercised leg.

The upshot is that scientists now better understand one more step in the complicated, multifaceted processes that make exercise so good for us.

Many mysteries still remain, though, said Malene Lindholm, a graduate student at the Karolinska Institute, who led the study. It’s unknown, for example, whether the genetic changes she and her colleagues observed would linger if someone quits exercising and how different amounts or different types of exercise might affect methylation patterns and gene expression. She and her colleagues hope to examine those questions in future studies.

But the message of this study is unambiguous. “Through endurance training — a lifestyle change that is easily available for most people and doesn’t cost much money,” Ms. Lindholm said, “we can induce changes that affect how we use our genes and, through that, get healthier and more functional muscles that ultimately improve our quality of life.”

Older women who exercise outdoors more likely to stick with it

 

By Shereen Lehman
© Kevin Dodge/Corbis (Reuters Health) – Outdoor workouts left women in a better mood and kept them exercising longer than counterparts who exercised indoors, according to a small study from Canada.

Results of the three-month trial involving women in their 50s and 60s suggest that outdoor exercise programs should be promoted to help older women keep active, the researchers conclude.

“Being physically active is essential to be healthy and remain functional with age,” said senior author Isabelle Dionne of the University Institute of Geriatrics of Sherbrooke in Quebec.

Only about 13 percent of Canadian women older than 59 years and less than 9 percent of older American adults get at least 150 minutes of physical activity each week, Dionne’s team writes in the journal Menopause.

Exercise is important for post-menopausal women because it helps to decrease the prevalence of chronic diseases, physical disability, cancer, and infections and reduces the risk of dementia, Dionne told Reuters Health

“Finding the right activity, meaning that it provides pleasure and motivation, is the key to remaining active as long as possible,” she said in an email.

Dionne said that one of her Master’s degree students had observed that women who exercised outside seemed to be happier.

“Because adherence is the main problem with healthy lifestyle, I felt training outdoors may be part of the answer to help people start and, especially, remain active,” Dionne said.

For the study, Dionne and her colleagues enrolled 23 post-menopausal women to participate in a 12-week long exercise program. All of the women normally led a sedentary lifestyle and exercised less than twice weekly, took no medications, didn’t smoke and had no symptoms of depression or only mild ones.

The women were randomly assigned to one of two groups. One group exercised together outdoors three times per week while the other group followed the same program indoors. The exercise programs included both aerobic exercises and strength training.

The women were asked how they were feeling before and halfway through their midweek sessions. In addition, before and after their workouts, the women answered questionnaires designed to measure feelings of positive engagement, revitalization, physical exhaustion and tranquility.

The study team found that on average, the women who exercised outdoors had a greater sense of tranquility after working out and attended more sessions – 97 percent of the 36 sessions in the trial for the outdoor exercisers compared to 91 percent of sessions attended by the indoor group.

The outdoor exercisers also showed decreased depressive symptoms and increased activity levels outside of the workout sessions, compared to the women who exercised indoors and whose general activity level didn’t change.

“Training outdoors brings a whole new dimension to being active and provides so many stimuli that people adhere to a larger extent than going to a gym or training in groups indoors,” Dionne said.

Thus, Dionne said, the women training outside were in a better mood, more motivated and satisfied with their training program.

Dionne said there are a growing number of ways to train outdoors such as taking outdoor physical activity lessons, or exercising in outdoor gyms, kids’ parks and city “green areas.”

“This adds to the well known nature paths, bike paths, suburb parks, quiet streets (to walk), community ice rinks, etc.,” she said. “It is only a matter of using them.”

Dionne said that similar results have been shown in studies of younger women.

“Regarding men, we do not have scientific evidence and we can only assume that it is somewhat the same,” Dionne said.

http://www.msn.com/en-us/health/wellness/older-women-who-exercise-outdoors-more-likely-to-stick-with-it/ar-BBgo0Z6?ocid=U037DHP