Exercise and Fitness

Exercise: It does so much more than burn calories

Elizabeth Pegg Frates, MD

You’ve probably heard that if you want to lose weight, it’s as simple as “eat less, exercise more.” A recent study suggests that a lot of exercise doesn’t always translate into a lot of extra calories burned. But even if you never lose a single pound with exercise, it has so many other benefits for your body and mind that it’s always worth it to be active. Give it a try today!

Let’s dance! Rhythmic motion can improve your health

Beverly Merz
Beverly Merz, Executive Editor, Harvard Women's Health Watch

The health benefits of dancing are as beneficial as other forms of exercise, and are accessible to almost everyone regardless of age or range of mobility. Moreover, by incorporating music, dance may have benefits beyond those of exercise alone. Music stimulates the brain’s reward centers, while dance activates its sensory and motor circuits. Dancing has improved balance, gait, and quality of life in people with Parkinson’s disease and related movement disorders.

Running injury? Maybe you’re doing it all wrong

Robert H. Shmerling, MD
Robert H. Shmerling, MD, Faculty Editor, Harvard Health Publications

The benefits of regular exercise are well understood, but some forms of exercise carry a higher risk of injury than others. A new study of female runners suggests that an individual’s running style may play a role in susceptibility to injury, but it also raises questions about technique that warrant further study.

How simply moving benefits your mental health

Srini Pillay, MD
Srini Pillay, MD, Contributor

The connection between your brain and your body is a two-way street. This means that how you feel affects how you move — and that the opposite is true, too. Here, we’ve assembled plenty of evidence that movement — whether it’s aerobic exercise in a gym or a simple meditative walk — is incredibly effective not only for boosting your mood, but for reducing symptoms of many common mental disorders, too.

People who exercise more also tend to drink more (alcohol)

Michael Bierer, MD
Michael Bierer, MD, Contributor

A recent study that tracked healthy volunteers’ exercise and drinking habits found that they tended to drink more on days when they exercised more. But this study might have had drastically different results if conducted with different groups. For example, what results might we see if the volunteers were sedentary people looking to exercise more — or people with unhealthy drinking patterns who were working to cut back?

The missing rewards that motivate healthy lifestyle changes

Srini Pillay, MD
Srini Pillay, MD, Contributor

Ask anyone who’s ever tried to make a healthy change — after a while, the motivation to keep at it just stops. Indeed, it can be incredibly hard to break old habits, or make new ones. But research has revealed that there are actually two different types of rewards in the brain — and that focusing on the less commonly pursued of the two can help you make lasting changes.

New survey reveals the rapid rise of yoga — and why some people still haven’t tried it

Marlynn Wei, MD, JD
Marlynn Wei, MD, JD, Contributing Editor

A recently published study confirms what many of us have already observed: the popularity of yoga in the U.S. is exploding. More Americans now practice yoga than ever before — and they’re enjoying a range of health and wellness benefits associated with it. While there are still some negative perceptions of yoga that can discourage people from trying it, there’s a lot the yoga community can do to help them feel included.

Vitamin D and physical function: Is more better?

Robert H. Shmerling, MD
Robert H. Shmerling, MD, Faculty Editor, Harvard Health Publications

Much has been promised about the potential health benefits of vitamin D, but the evidence behind many of these promises is lacking. In fact, a recent study that tested whether vitamin D supplements protected older people from physical decline found that those on higher doses were more likely to have a fall. It’s important to get enough vitamin D in your diet. But when it comes to supplements, more is not always better.

A stronger heart may keep your brain young

Julie Corliss
Julie Corliss, Executive Editor, Harvard Heart Letter

Regular exercise offers a wealth of benefits for your body — and recent studies have confirmed that people who are physically fit have fitter brains, too. In fact, an active person’s brain can effectively be up to seven years “younger” than the brain of someone who doesn’t exercise! Fortunately, shaping up your brain is as easy as shaping up the rest of your body — a little activity goes a long way.

Is football safe for kids?

Mark Proctor, MD
Mark Proctor, MD, Contributing Editor

Many team sports have tremendous health benefits for children, but youth football, in particular, continues to pose a concern because of the high risks of concussion and other injuries. A recent NEJM article has taken a stance against allowing tackling in youth football. But is this position really the best way to promote the health and safety of youth athletes?