Exercise and Fitness

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.

Tai chi can improve life for people with chronic health conditions

Julie Corliss
Julie Corliss, Executive Editor, Harvard Heart Letter

Tai chi has become popular in the United States in recent years, thanks in part to growing evidence for its many health benefits. This ancient Chinese exercise not only improves balance and flexibility, it may prevent falls, ease pain, and even help your heart. A recent analysis of 33 studies of tai chi suggests that doing tai chi can help older adults with common, long-term health conditions move about more easily and enhance their quality of life. The quality of life improvements may stem from the meditative, mind-calming aspects of tai chi.

Bicycle injuries are mounting, especially in adults

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

These days, more and more adults bike to work, combining their daily workout with their daily commute, all while helping the environment. Unfortunately, biking is getting riskier. A study in this week’s Journal of the American Medical Association found that, between 1998 and 2013, the rate of bike injuries rose by 28% and the rate of people admitted to the hospital because of bike injuries rose by 120%. People over 45 had the greatest increase in injuries. And the majority of bike accidents now happen on city streets. The good news is that you can help protect yourself by learning and following the rules of the road, staying alert, and keeping some common-sense safety tips in mind.

Can digital fitness trackers get you moving?

Heidi Godman
Heidi Godman, Executive Editor, Harvard Health Letter

Study after study has shown that Americans don’t get enough activity. In fact, many of us don’t even get our recommended 10,000 steps a day. Could pedometers or digital fitness trackers help? Pedometers are simple gadgets that measure how many steps you take. Digital fitness trackers also measure the pace, distance, duration, and intensity of your activity, and often have accompanying web applications that can evaluate and even graph this information. In a small study published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, researchers gave either a standard pedometer or a Fitbit brand digital fitness tracker to 51 overweight postmenopausal women who had been getting about 33 minutes per week of moderate to vigorous physical activity. The pedometer group did not have any significant change to their activity levels. But the fitness tracker group increased their physical activity by an additional 38 minutes per week.