One Is The Loneliest Number That You’ll Ever Do

“They say” that exercise can be a great stress reliever. But there are often mixed data on this — whether it is or is not a stress reliever. Given that, there must be some other factor that’s mucking up the data.

This study looks at one of them. When you exercise in a group, your stress levels are reduced by 26 percent, compared to those who brave it all by themselves.

Why would that be?

  • Are they just grumpy that no one wants to work out with them?
  • Are they more stressy because they can only mutter to them selves on their little angry runs?
  • Or do they report being less calm because they wanted to be in the “group exerciser” arm of the study, and do understand why the universe is conspiring against them?

The world may never know the reasons why group activities lead people to report higher quality of life, but it may be because we’re human. Just thinking out loud here, but we ARE social animals. If we go against that essential nature, it’s just not going to go well.

So, find a group to walk or ride or talk or play ping pong or whatever with. If you do this, it’s not only better for your muscles, it’s better for your heart and mind as well.

This research was originally pubbed here.

Researchers found working out in a group lowers stress by 26 percent and significantly improves quality of life, while those who exercise individually put in more effort but experienced no significant changes in their stress level and a limited improvement to quality of life, according to a study published in The Journal of the American Osteopathic Association.

“The communal benefits of coming together with friends and colleagues, and doing something difficult, while encouraging one another, pays dividends beyond exercising alone,” said Dayna Yorks, DO, lead researcher on this study. “The findings support the concept of a mental, physical and emotional approach to health that is necessary for student doctors and physicians.”

Dr. Yorks and her fellow researchers at the University of New England College of Osteopathic Medicine recruited 69 medical students — a group known for high levels of stress and self-reported low quality of life — and allowed them to self-select into a twelve-week exercise program, either within a group setting or as individuals. A control group abstained from exercise other than walking or biking as a means of transportation.

Every four weeks, participants completed a survey asking them to rate their levels of perceived stress and quality of life in three categories: mental, physical and emotional.

Those participating in group exercise spent 30 minutes at least once a week in CXWORX, a core strengthening and functional fitness training program. At the end of the twelve weeks, their mean monthly survey scores showed significant improvements in all three quality of life measures: mental (12.6 percent), physical (24.8 percent) and emotional (26 percent). They also reported a 26.2 percent reduction in perceived stress levels.

By comparison, individual fitness participants were allowed to maintain any exercise regimen they preferred, which could include activities like running and weight lifting, but they had to work out alone or with no more than two partners. On average the solitary exercisers worked out twice as long, and saw no significant changes in any measure, except in mental quality of life (11 percent increase). Similarly, the control group saw no significant changes in quality of life or perceived stress.

“Medical schools understand their programs are demanding and stressful. Given this data on the positive impact group fitness can have, schools should consider offering group fitness opportunities,” said Dr. Yorks. “Giving students an outlet to help them manage stress and feel better mentally and physically can potentially alleviate some of the burnout and anxiety in the profession.”

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Materials provided by American Osteopathic Association.

Benefits Of Aerobic Exercise On The Brain: 30 Minutes Of Working Out Improves Memory, Thinking Skills

We all know about the physical benefits of working out; we become leaner, fitter, and stronger. Our body isn’t the only thing reaping gains from exercise; our brain also benefits from a sweat session. Researchers at the University of Auckland have found 30 minutes of aerobic exercise boosts brain activity, improving memory, and thinking skills.

Previous research has explored the relationship between exercise and brain health. In a 2006 study, when healthy but sedentary adults were put through an aerobic fitness program for six months, there was a significant increase in both white matter and grey matter in the brain. White matter connects various gray matter areas (the locations of nerve cell bodies) of the brain to each other, and also carries nerve impulses between neurons. The control group, which only did stretching and toning in the same period of time, did not experience an increase in brain volume.

In the new study, published in Experimental Brain Research, scientists sought to explore how aerobic exercise enhances neuroplasticity (the brain’s ability to form and reorganize synaptic connections) and what areas of the brain benefit from physical activity. A total of 10 young, healthy adults were asked to do 30 minutes of moderate cycling on a stationary bike, tailored to the aerobic fitness levels of each participant.

After the workout, the researchers found the motor cortex, where the nerve impulses originate that start voluntary muscle activity, had less gamma — aminobutyric acid, or GABA, the main inhibitory neurotransmitter in the brain. GABA plays an important role in regulating the brain’s capacity to undergo change or neuroplasticity.

Moderate, intense aerobic exercise makes the brain more flexible, and improves memory and thinking skills.Photo courtesy of Pexels, Public Domain

The researchers believe this is how exercise promotes neuroplasticity, which supports their original hypothesis: “One possible mechanism is through effects on primary motor cortex (M1) function via down-regulation of the inhibitory neurotransmitter gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA).”

In other words, a 30-minute moderately intense aerobic workout can immediately reduce GABA in the brain. The researchers believe this could benefit stroke victims by allowing them to coordinate movement.

Winston D. Byblow and Ronan A. Mooney of the University of Auckland, corresponding authors of the study, said: “Our findings may have implications for individuals after stroke, where GABA is a promising target for promoting neuroplasticity to promote recovery of motor function.”

They do admit older or clinical populations may struggle with certain exercise intensities due to functional limitations. However, other research has found exercise could slow down brain atrophy, the loss of brain volume. Typically, we start losing it at about age 30, with the hippocampus being the most affected. This can affect cognitive health, memory, and even spur dementia.

Read More: Regular Exercise Boosts Brain Function

A 2011 study in PNAS found exercise training increases the size of the hippocampus — believed to be the center of emotion, memory, and the autonomic nervous system — and improves memory. Moderate exercise in healthy older adults helped them gain one to two percent volume in the hippocampus area. This is equal to reversing brain aging by about two years. Moreover, there were gains in spatial memory — responsible for recording information about one’s environment and spatial orientation.

It seems what’s good for our body, is also good for the brain.

Source: Mooney RA, Coxon JP, Cirillo J et al. Acute aerobic exercise modulates primary motor cortex inhibition. Experimental Brain Research. 2016.

Article originally published here:



The Magic Mediterranean diet is not a panacea. It never was.

magic-hat-electricLike magic, the Mediterranean Diet seems to cure all ills — diabetes, heart disease, obesity, crappy food choices. But it can’t cure all of them. You still need to move and be active. Crazy right? 

This study looked at 3,358 young people (between 18 and 30 y.o.) with prediabetes, and then followed up 25 years later. They wanted to see whether the people with diabetes later on were also fit, or ate a Mediterranean style diet.

Results? Being fit was associated with reduced risk of diabetes. The miraculous Mediterranean diet was neither here nor there.

But here’s the real magic. Eating real food, in control, and moving every day together decreases your risk of bad things happening to your body and increases your risk of good things. Shazam!