Jenson Mak | Vitality & Healthy Ageing Blog

Dr. Jenson Mak covers the best of living a vital and healthy life at any age.

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5 Health Benefits of Yoga

Yoga and meditation have been studied and practiced for thousands of years. The primary idea of yoga is to find peace and happiness between yourself and your body in the outside world. Even if you consider yourself happy, the practice gives you a boost in your life through the way that you think. Yoga is a great way to enhance your health and wellness, and is an excellent practice for those looking to age well. The practice fights against stressors and allows you to find peace within your mind, while strengthening your physical body as well. Through consistent yoga practice, you can increase your health through these benefits

 

Mental Health

Yoga has a great positive effect on various mental health diseases. Yoga allows you to become one with yourself through practice, ultimately decreasing negative thoughts. The brain is able to relax and focus on one thing only: the practice. Studies have shown that consistent yoga practice has had a positive impact on patients fighting mental health struggles. It is one of the most positive homeopathic medicines available for mental diseases.

 

Muscle Strength

Yoga also comes with the benefits of a daily workout. If you’re looking to build up muscle strength, yoga is a great practice. Because you are using your own body weight, you aren’t pressured of dealing with free weights, which could be harmful if not practiced correctly. When using your own body weight, you have the ability to build the strength you need naturally through practice.

 

Increased Flexibility

Your body’s flexibility is very important when it comes to working out. When your muscles aren’t stretched before and after a workout, you risk the chance of developing an injury. Yoga allows you to increase your flexibility and loosen your muscles. Through practice, you’ll see a great difference in your typical workouts and exercises.

 

Better Breathing

Because you are focusing on your breath and your body during yoga, you practice the art of better breathing. Breathing allows you to calm your body down and receive the oxygen it needs to circulate through your blood in your body. During yoga practice, your body practices circulation and increases the functions of your organs as you practice breathing techniques.

 

Sleep Better

Yoga is also great for those who have problems with sleeping. As yoga calms the body down through the practice of breathing and mindfulness, you’ll feel more at peace and calm after your practice. As your body is relaxed, you will be able to sleep better at night, which is essential for your health and daily function.

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Seniors & Exercise, How Long, How Often, How Much?

We all know that fitness is one of the major keys to staying active, healthy, happy, and full of vitality as you age. But seniors also need to take into account that injury from overexertion or exercise too strenuous can lead to serious complications or much longer healing times as you age.

A large health study suggests that the elderly can benefit from as little as 15 minutes per day of moderately heart-pumping exercise. (Though 30 minutes minimum is recommended.) An active fitness routine can help everything from balance and strength, to delaying the onset of heart disease and dementia. It can reduce depression, prevent diabetes, delay or prevent osteoporosis, and reduce occurrences of breast and colon cancer.

So what kind of exercise should you do? For how long? And how often?

There are three main types of exercise, aerobic/endurance-building, weight training, and stretching.

Endurance building exercises are activities like walking, swimming, dancing, or anything else that gets your heart rate up and increases circulation falls into this category. This includes chores like shovelling snow, walking the dog, raking leaves, or mowing the lawn, as long as you do it at a pace that gets your heart pumping! Increased activity that ups your heart-rate is the number one most important element for mood, weight, and cardiac benefits.

Weight training doesn’t need to mean lifting weights like a bodybuilder, although lifting weights is really good for muscle health and can counteract the muscle loss that comes along with old age. It also ups your metabolism, which helps keep your weight and blood sugar in check! Physical labour chores can be part of a weight-building regimen, as can exercise that uses your own body-weight, like push-ups, lunges, arm-circles, and sit-ups. Yoga and pilates are great ways to incorporate muscle-building into your routine.

Stretching exercises help maintain flexibility, increase balance, and help prevent injury. It’s important to include stretching with any exercise you do, because it helps prevent you from over-exerting muscles during exercise. They can also help with old injuries, back pain, headaches, and other recurring symptoms. Stretching will keep you active, reduce tension, and keep your mobility at it’s peak!

The length of time you devote to fitness daily will depend -at first- on your current fitness level. For moderate activity (working hard enough that it’s difficult to talk, but not so hard that it’s impossible), the ideal is a 30 minute workout. But consistency is more important than overworking yourself, so if you haven’t been very active until now, you might want to build up to 30 minutes over time, start with as little as 5 minutes, if you need too. Listen to your body!

A large health study in Taiwan followed about 416,000 people for an average of eight years and discovered that people who exercised just 15 minutes a day reduced their mortality from all causes by 14 per cent and increased their life expectancy by three years.

The frequency of exercise is your key to seeing long-term health benefits, so you should be trying to get some activity into your routine every day, or nearly every day. Consistency is the key to building stamina, muscle, and seeing those great health benefits.

At least twice a week your schedule should include muscle-building, and every other day should include aerobic activity. Stretching is best if it happens as part of your cool-down after working out, or first thing every morning. If 30 minutes every day doesn’t fit into your schedule, you can try dividing your time up differently, such as doing an hour and fourty-five minutes of activity every Saturday and Sunday and none during the week. Also keep in mind that 30 minutes a day can happen in three 10-minute installments, or two 15-minute sessions, if you’re busy or worried about overworking yourself.

However you set your goals, make sure you can accomplish them, and remember to always take a break if you need one! A few days off every week to relax and recuperate is better than doing damage by pushing too hard, and it’s also better than setting yourself goals that you won’t follow through on. Any activity is better than none!

Vigorous exercise carries risks that people should discuss with a doctor. You should always check with your doctor before starting a new exercise programme, especially if you have any of the following risk factors:

  • A symptom you have never told your doctor about
  • Arthritis of the hips or knees
  • Blood clots
  • Chest pain
  • Chronic lung disease
  • Diabetes
  • Eye injury or recent eye surgery
  • Family history of a cardiovascular disease
  • Foot or ankle sores that won’t heal
  • Heart disease
  • Heart palpitations
  • Hernia
  • High blood pressure
  • History of smoking
  • Infections
  • Joint swelling
  • Obesity
  • Pain or trouble walking after a fall
  • Shortness of breath

Pomegranates Anti-Ageing Capabilities

pexels-photo-100801Pomegranates have long been touted as an elixir of anti-aging, but there has been very little research that proves those claims, outside of the rich amounts of antioxidants contain. Until now, that is.

 

Research shows that there is a compound within pomegranates that is activated by gut bacteria. The effect of our intestinal microbes breaking down this compound results in a by-product called Urolithin A, which has been shown in research to aid muscles in protecting themselves against aging. When Urolithin A was given to Caenorhabiditis elegans worms, they lived an average lifespan that was 45% longer than the lifespan of the regular worms. When fed to elderly mice, the mice could run up to 42% further, without building any additional muscle. This change suggests that the chemical improves muscle-cell quality, not quantity.

 

The human trials have begun, but the findings from the worms and mice were so measurable and impressive the preliminary results have been published in Nature Medicine.

 

Mitochondria in our cells work kind of like batteries, powering the cells. Eventually, mitochondria degredate and fail over time, which leads to complications like muscle weakness and Parkinson’s disease. Essentially, Urolithin A (UA for short) is responsible for re-charging failing mitochondria, salvaging cells which might otherwise fail completely. “It’s the only known molecule that can relaunch the mitochondrial clean-up process, otherwise known as mitophagy,” said Patrick Aebischer, co-author on the study.

 

But before you run out to stock up on pomegranates, remember that the fruit don’t carry the compound, rather your gut bacteria processing it. There are those out there that do not have the right intestinal microbes for this process, or some that produce far less of the compound than others do.

 

The co-authors of this study founded a company to help combat this problem with a goal of creating and administering precise doses of UA to bodies directly, without the variable conversion process in the digestive system. They have already begun testing with humans in clinical trials in hospitals throughout Europe.

 

And for those of you that are reluctant to believe that worms and rats are good test subjects for humans, fear not: “Species that are evolutionarily quite distant, such as C elegans and the rat, react to the same substance in the same way. That’s a good indication that we’re touching here on an essential mechanism in living organisms.” So says Johan Auwerx.
The idea is to see if UA can provide the same mitochondrial-saving benefits to humans that it did in the trials. If it does, we could see UA being given to the elderly to help with muscular degeneration, amongst other ailments related to age. We may not see 45% longer lives, as we did with the rats, but we may see an extension of quality of life, and a longer period of healthy lifespans.

Can Researchers Make a Pill for Exercise?

RunningAn “exercise pill” may sound like science fiction, or like yet another diet fad that ultimately does nothing. However, science is seeking out a solution in earnest. The chemical effects of exercise are well documented in improving conditions from memory to stress management to age-related brain deterioration. For those who are unable to run long distance, life weights, or hold their body weight due to age or limited movement ability, there is no way to get the chemical and cerebral benefits of exercise. This is exactly the problem that researchers are looking to fix.

University of Sydney partnered up with the University of Copenhagen to take tissue samples from four men who had just exerted a lot of energy on a bicycle for 10 minutes. The results showed over a thousand different molecular changes in the muscle tissue taken immediately after exertion compare with muscle tissue taken from those same men before the activity began.

“We’ve created an exercise blueprint that lays the foundation for future treatments, and the end goal is to mimic the effects of exercise,” said Dr. Nolan Hoffman, one of the authors of the study. “It’s long been thought that there were many signals elicited by exercise, but we were the first to create this map and we now know the complexity.”

But these two Universities aren’t the only ones working on this.

The National Institute of Health has organised a giant clinical study, spanning many different clinical centres, to attempt to decipher an incredible amount of detailed data a a blueprint for how exercise changes our genes, the way we use and absorb protein, epigenetics in muscles and fatty tissue, and metabolism. “Identification of the mechanisms that underlie the link between physical activity and improved health holds extraordinary promise for discovery of novel therapeutic targets and development of personalised exercise medicine,” wrote the participating researchers in a report in Cell Metabolism.

All of this is being made possible by “big data”, a term used to describe researchers and computer programmes built to decipher massive amounts of data to find correlations that could go unseen by the human eye.  With the help of big data, a team from Harvard has announced a drug that converts white fat (the kind that isn’t beneficial and sticks around) to brown fat (the kind that is metabolically active), which in essence converts all your fat storage cells into fat burning machines.

All of this research is a long way from being our day-to-day reality. “We are at the early stages of this exciting new field,” said Dr. Ismail Laher. a scientist at the University of British Columbia who recently published a think piece on the future of exercise pills.

On the other side of the coin, the British Medical Journal recently published a study showing that the efficacy of exercise is often as good a medicine in preventing mortality as medication in some situations. In these tests, regular physical activity rivalled some heart drugs and outperformed stroke medicine in preventing death. In England, reports the BBC, there were an average of 17.7 prescriptions for every person in England in 2010, compared with 11.2 in 2000. “These trials looked at managing conditions such as existing heart disease, stroke rehabilitation, heart failure and pre-diabetes. When they studied the data as a whole, they found exercise and drugs were comparable in terms of death rates. But there were two exceptions: Drugs called diuretics were the clear winner for heart failure patients, while exercise was best for stroke patients in terms of life expectancy.”

 

So while the potential for an exercise pill may be in your future, if you can it’s probably for the best if you just go out for a brisk walk on your own.

World’s Oldest Female Bodybuilder Feels Better at 79 Than She Did At 40

20Ernestine Shepherd is not a name that you may recognise, but she is absolutely a person you should know. She is the Guinness World Record Holder for being the oldest female bodybuilder. At age 79 she is a personal trainer, model, and competitive bodybuilder who firmly believes that “age is nothing but a number”.

Earlier In her life, she said she had little interest in athletics, and as a profession, she was a school secretary with a sedentary lifestyle. All it took was one bathing suit-shopping trip with her sister at age 56 to convince her it was time to start getting in better shape. She and her sister joined a gym together and worked out together until her sister passed on suddenly. After mourning the loss and quitting the gym, a friend advised that her sister would have wanted her to continue the challenge they had started together, and this advice convinced her to return to working out with a renewed vigour.

Ernestine-Shepherd-e1339431406886She started slow, but kept working, and completely changed both her body and her life. With the addition of a healthy diet full of protein and nutrients to her running and bodybuilding routine, she says she’s happier than she’s ever been, motivated, and says she feels better at 79 than she did at 40. She has 9-10% body fat, runs in 5k and 10k races as well as running nine marathons, and has won two bodybuilding titles.

She’s become something of an activist for healthy living and vitality no matter your age, and dreams of working with Michelle Obama on her work in combating obesity and unhealthy habits in children, but also leads events like an AARP Walk of Ages, and works to motivate seniors to get more active in their lives like she did.

She wrote a book, coming out April 30th, 2016, which you can check out on her webpage.

Watch this original documentary short from Prevention Magazine starring the lovely lady herself. The Remarkable Story of Ernestine Shepherd:

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