Dancing can reverse the signs of aging in the brain

As we grow older we suffer a decline in mental and physical fitness, which can be made worse by conditions like Alzheimer’s disease. A new study, published in the open-access journal Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, shows that older people who routinely partake in physical exercise can reverse the signs of aging in the brain, and dancing has the most profound effect.

“Exercise has the beneficial effect of slowing down or even counteracting age-related decline in mental and physical capacity,” says Dr Kathrin Rehfeld, lead author of the study, based at the German center for Neurodegenerative Diseases, Magdeburg, Germany. “In this study, we show that two different types of physical exercise (dancing and endurance training) both increase the area of the brain that declines with age. In comparison, it was only dancing that lead to noticeable behavioral changes in terms of improved balance.”

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It’s great to see more science and more advocates backing up the benefits of fasting. I started back in 2011 when I wrote the blog “Adventures in Fasting.”

Techies are pushing the trend of intermittent fasting for weight loss

The last time any food passed Phil Libin’s lips was a day ago, when he ate yakitori at a restaurant in San Francisco’s Mission district. He’ll next eat in three days time on Thursday evening, when he has a reservation at one of the fanciest sushi restaurants in town. In the intervening four days it’s just water, coffee and black tea.

Over the last eight months, the former CEO of Evernote and current CEO of AI studio All Turtles has shunned food for stretches of between two and eight days, interspersed with similar periods of eating. He’s lost almost 90lbs and describes getting into fasting as “transformative”.

“There’s a mild euphoria. I’m in a much better mood, my focus is better, and there’s a constant supply of energy. I just feel a lot healthier. It’s helping me be a better CEO,” he said over a cup of black coffee – one of many that day – at All Turtles’ Soma office. “Getting into fasting is definitely one of the top two or three most important things I’ve done in my life.”

Libin is one of a growing number of Silicon Valley types experimenting with extended periods of fasting, claiming benefits including weight loss, fewer mood swings and improved productivity.

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Regular sex can slow aging

If a small part of you died when you found out that sex doesn’t actually count as exercise, this news should revive you: Sex may deliver the even better benefit of prolonging your life, according to the results of a small study first published online in the medical journal, Psychoneuroendocrinology in March that’s just making the rounds.

In the study, researchers compared the length of DNA strand protectors called telomeres among 129 mothers in committed relationships. Telomeres are a reliable measure of health since they shorten as you age, and the shorter your telomeres, the more likely you are to develop a degenerative disease and premature death, according to lead researcher Tomás Cabeza de Baca of the University of California, San Francisco, who spoke to PsyPost.org.

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Be sillier for long, happy life

It’s hard to ignore tired feet and that constantly-achy back as we get older, but a new study finds that a key to a long life of good health and always feeling younger — no matter our age — is to simply act younger from time to time.

Researchers from Healthspan, a supplier of vitamins and health supplements in the United Kingdom, polled 2,000 British adults on the effects of nostalgia and youthful behavior on mental and physical health.

Nearly three quarters of respondents indicated that occasionally forgetting you’re an adult and tapping into a more immature mindset — be it watching old cartoons, pulling pranks on friends, or playing classic board games — was important for their health.

In fact, one in four participants admitted they’d like to remain “child-like” for as long as possible, and half still felt cravings for childhood experiences.

“Perceiving ourselves as younger than our age is linked to a more future-orientated outlook, which means that we make better health choices such as engaging in exercise and healthy eating,” says psychologist Dr. Meg Arroll in a press release. “The findings of this survey support previous research that has shown nostalgia boosts our mood.”

Smiling while exercising improves performance

Many athletes have been told that smiling while sweating will make our efforts feel easier. In May, Eliud Kipchoge, the Kenyan marathon runner, periodically grinned through the final miles of his fastest-ever marathon, which he completed in 2 hours 25 seconds; afterward, he said that he had hoped that the smiling would ease him to the finish line. But there has been little solid scientific evidence to support this idea. Several past studies have examined whether deliberately smiling can alter how people feel psychologically during races, but few have looked at the physiological impact on sports performance.

For a new study published in September in Psychology of Sport and Exercise, researchers from Ulster University in Northern Ireland and Swansea University in Wales decided to gather a group of experienced recreational runners and have them alternately grin and grimace as they ran. The 24 volunteers, men and women, were not aware of the study’s purpose: They were told that the experiment would look at a variety of factors related to “running economy,” a measure of how much oxygen you use to stride at a given speed.

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Get up, stand up!

Too much time spent in a chair could shorten our lives, even if we exercise, according to a study that uses objective measures to find the links between lengthy sitting time and death among middle-aged and older adults.

More hopefully, the study also suggests that we might be able to take steps to reduce our risks by taking steps every half-hour or so.

So for the new study, which was published this week in Annals of Internal Medicine, scientists from Columbia University in New York City and many other institutions turned to an extensive database of existing health information about tens of thousands of Caucasian and African-American men and women 45 or older who were part of a study of stroke risk. The study was primarily funded through the National Institutes of Health, and partly through the Coca-Cola Company.

The participants had undergone a battery of health tests and about 8,000 of them also had worn accelerometers for a week to track their daily movements.

Accelerometers are, of course, an objective measure of how much and often someone sits, exercises or otherwise moves about. They do not hedge about those hours you spent sprawled on the couch binge-watching “30 Rock.”

The scientists then found strong statistical correlations between sitting and mortality. The men and women who sat for the most hours every day, according to their accelerometer data, had the highest risk for early death, especially if this sitting often continued for longer than 30 minutes at a stretch. The risk was unaffected by age, race, gender or body mass.
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