Tuesday, March 5, 2019

Evening Exercise Won't Wreck Your Sleep

Sometimes, it's just not possible to fit in a workout in the morning or afternoon. But if you hit the gym in the evening, will you be up half the night?

New research says no. The Australian study found that 30 minutes of high-intensity interval training didn't have any negative impact on sleep.

In other good news, the researchers said the exercise session also seemed to quell feelings of hunger.

The study tracked how well 11 middle-aged men slept after completing 30 minutes of high-intensity interval exercise on a bike. The researchers looked at how the men slept after morning (6 a.m. to 7 a.m.), afternoon (2 p.m. to 4 p.m.) and evening (7 p.m. to 9 p.m.) exercise sessions.

The impact of exercise on hunger and appetite hormones was also measured.

"There were very minor differences that indicated total sleep time was shortest for morning exercise, followed by evening exercise, and sleep duration was longest following afternoon exercise," said study author Penelope Larsen, from Charles Sturt University in Bathhurst, Australia.

Evening exercise also didn't leave people counting sheep before they fell asleep. Larsen said there were only one- or two-minute differences between the groups for how fast they fell asleep.

How to Prevent Sneaky Weight Gain

Slow and sneaky weight gain usually happens over time -- on average one pound a year. So it's not always obvious at first, especially if you don't regularly weigh yourself.

But if this weight creep goes unnoticed year after year, by middle age, your middle may lose the sleek look you had when you were younger.

Several factors could be to blame. Maybe you're exercising less because family & work obligations have gotten in the way of regular gym visits. Maybe you're eating more, such as having a cookie with your daily afternoon cup of tea.

Perhaps you simply don't need as many calories as you used to because of the gradual shift in body composition that can happen with age. Having less muscle and more fat can slow your metabolism, making it easier to gain weight.

But you can work to avoid or at least limit this type of weight gain. Start by doing a quick self-evaluation. Has your activity level gone down? Are you eating more than usual? If you answered yes to these questions, make the commitment to get back on track both with diet and exercise.

To improve diet, studies that tracked people for 20 years found the key is to switch to a way of eating that emphasizes fruits and vegetables, whole grains and nuts.

You can replace low-nutrient foods with these choices by crafting your own diet. Or, if you do better with a structured plan, the Mediterranean Diet, the Alternate Healthy Eating Index Diet and the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (or DASH) diet are all healthful approaches to consider. (Some of the slight differences among the three are in the suggested amounts of fruits, vegetables and protein).

Next, re-arrange your schedule to work in at least 30 minutes of exercise every day. The only way to achieve this goal is to make it a priority for your continued good health, rather than seeing it as just another chore to do. Remember that better living needs to be a mindset before it can become a habit.

Great Workouts Boost Brains, Even in the Young

Heart-pumping exercise benefits the brain, improving thinking skills even in younger adults, a small study suggests.

For the study, scientists tracked more than 130 adults, aged 20 to 67. The investigators found that aerobic exercise increased participants' overall fitness as well as their so-called executive function -- thinking skills that are key to reasoning, planning and problem-solving.

And while all ages benefited, the brain gains rose with age, the findings showed.

"Certainly what we're seeing here is, in people who don't exercise, getting them to exercise really does increase their abilities," said study author Yaakov Stern. "This effect is not just important on older people, but younger people as well."

Stern is chief of cognitive neuroscience at Columbia University's Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons in New York City.

Many studies have investigated the impact of aerobic exercise on thinking skills, but most have focused on older adults, Stern noted. His team decided to look instead at a wider age range. So the researchers recruited 132 adults (70 percent women) at five fitness centers in New York City.