Exercise and Fitness

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?

More than just a game: Yoga for school-age children

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

Yoga is becoming increasingly popular among American children. Emerging research has shown that yoga has a number of physical and psychological benefits for children, and many classrooms now integrate yoga into a typical school day. Yoga can also be a great way for parents and children to play and interact at home. We’ve included several fun yoga-based exercises and games that parents and children can enjoy together.

Yoga in pregnancy: Many poses are safer than once thought

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

Yoga can help relieve symptoms of anxiety, depression, and stress, all of which are common during pregnancy. A new study shows that many yoga poses are safe for mothers-to-be and their babies. However, pregnant women should take certain precautions when doing yoga — for example, avoiding heated yoga classes and being careful not to over-stretch. It’s also important for pregnant women to check with their doctors to be sure there are no underlying health concerns before starting yoga.

Exercise: You may need less than you think

Gregory Curfman, MD
Gregory Curfman, MD, Editor in Chief, Harvard Health Publications

Getting regular physical activity is one of the most important things one can do to protect and promote health, yet many people say they don’t have time to exercise. A recent study has confirmed that even a little exercise — just 8 to 15 minutes a day — reduced the risk of death. When it comes to exercise, some is always better than none.

Yoga for Better Sleep

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

Yoga is a gentle and restorative way to wind down your day. A national survey found that over 55% of people who did yoga found that it helped them get better sleep. Over 85% said yoga helped reduce stress. Dr. Marlynn Wei shares a bedtime yoga routine and explains how to use the breath to relax deeper into the poses.

The gender gap in sports injuries

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

For a variety of reasons, women are more prone to suffer many of the most common sports-related injuries than men are. This has led to some innovative approaches to prevent injuries among women in sports. Certain strategies, such as muscle conditioning, can help reduce the risk of some injuries. However, more research is needed to help close this particular gender gap.