Stress Management


Relaxing womanStress will make you old. If you doubt that statement, click on this link to see how our Presidents have aged during office. It’s dramatic. Most of us would agree that the President of the United States has a stressful job. Okay, maybe you’re not the President, but the stress you may be feeling is real and it’s breaking your body down. Want to reverse that process? Read on.

As I described in Part One of this article, I stressed myself to exhaustion when I was 22 years old and ended up in the hospital with a “nervous breakdown”.  The gift to that dark cloud was being introduced to hypnosis and self-hypnosis. Not only did I recover from my ordeal without the use of any drugs, but I discovered a way to overcome negative thinking and to relax with just a deep breath.  But little did I know that, over time, I would discover other phenomenal benefits of practicing self-hypnosis.

The link between self-hypnosis and aging

Years after my introduction to self-hypnosis, I had the pleasure of hearing Teri D. Mahaney, Ph.D., author of the book “Change Your Mind/Life”, speak at a professional conference. I was in my early thirties at the time. Dr. Mahaney’s book, a step-by-step program to re-pattern the subconscious mind, used subliminal affirmations to replace negative thoughts in such areas as empowerment, healing and wellness, money and success, and sports performance.

First, you record a script. Second, you listen to your self-recorded script. Your mind then enters a theta brainwave state, or a state of deep hypnosis, which is similar to the state of your brain right before falling to sleep. In this deep, relaxed state, the affirmations recorded on the script are highly effective.

Intrigued, I listened intently because of my initial success with self-hypnosis. Teri began her research in the early 1980’s, which included frequent listening to her own scripts. Then she announced, “I am youthing.” That was an interesting comment that hit home when she announced her age. She looked fifteen years younger. Her program appeared to be reversing the aging process.

I bought the book and tried her program for a short period of time.  I didn’t have the patience at that time in my life to stick with it because I was still focused on succeeding through sheer effort and determination. Her lesson stuck with me, however, and later in life as I tired of the “nose to the grindstone” mentality, I began to revisit using self-hypnosis to relax and change my negative thought patterns.

Now I listen to relaxation recordings most evenings before bed and first thing in the morning. I very rarely have trouble sleeping and the recordings help me frame each day in a positive way before I get out of bed. My favorite recordings are listed at the end of this article. Give it a try.

The scientific link between stress and aging

Perhaps you’d like a scientific link between stress and aging? It is well known that cortisol and adrenaline are released when we feel stress. The higher the stress, the higher the level of hormones produced. Overloads of stress hormones have been linked to such diseases as heart disease, high blood pressure and weakened immune systems. Releasing stress is critical to staying healthy.

A recent study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, found that stress can add years to the age of individual immune system cells, primarily telomeres (the structures at the tips of chromosomes), by becoming shorter each time the cell divides. When a cell becomes too short, it stops dividing and dies. Stress hastens the process.

Researchers checked both the telomeres and the stress levels of 58 healthy but highly stressed women. They found that their immune systems cells had aged, on average, an extra 10 years.

If you still question the link between stress and aging, take another look at the pictures of our presidents at the beginning of their presidency and at the end. Presidents undergo a process of accelerated aging, according to Dr. Michael Roizen, chair of the Wellness Institute at the Cleveland Clinic and co-founder of RealAge.com. He has accumulated facts and figures on presidential health dating back to the 1920s, and speculates that “presidents get two years older for every year they’re in office.” The moral of this story, other than to not run for President, is to relax.

Some of my favorite relaxation books and CDs

Louise L. Hay, CD “Morning Meditation”/”Evening Meditation”

Louise L. Hay, Book “You Can Heal Your Life”

Teri D. Mahaney, Ph.D. Book “Change Your Mind/Life”

Doreen Virtue, Ph.D. Book/CD “Chakra Clearing”

Glenn Harrold, CD “A Chakra Meditation”

In summary, self-hypnosis is an effective tool to plant positive thoughts directly into the subconscious mind and bypass the clutter of the conscious mind. It’s hard, if not impossible, to feel a negative emotion and relax at the same time. Since I started listening to self-hypnosis recordings on a regular basis, the results have been subtle but undeniable—like alleviating my anxiety and like qualifying for the Boston Marathon for the first time at the age of 54. It took me 14 years and 8 marathons to qualify the first time, and only one try the second time . . . because I relaxed and let go.

Change will come easier for some than others. It didn’t come easily for me because I was so high strung and stubborn . . . still am. It took me years to learn to let go, but each time I did, my good came to me. I continue to learn and look forward to enjoying the rest of my life with energy and positive expectations. Aging is not the same as growing old. Stay youthful and enjoy life to the fullest.

Do you have any experience with hypnosis?  If so, I love to hear about your experience.  Comment on my blog.  Want more articles on staying young and productive as you age?  Subscribe to my blog or like my Facebook fan page.  Looking for a speaker?  Check out my website.

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Let’s break barriers together!

Dolores

Image courtesy of stockimages at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

 

 

Nervous ManEver had trouble sleeping? How about for several nights in a row? Add 60-hour weeks on top of that and you’ve got major stress. I worked for a national CPA firm once, with the top performers in the field. Most of them competed hard for recognition and promotions. At 22 years old, I had never felt so much pressure and drove myself to exhaustion, both mentally and physically. Yes, I cracked under the pressure and checked myself into the hospital. I had what I call a nervous breakdown. The doctor said I suffered from acute anxiety. Either way, I didn’t work again for six weeks.

Welcome to the first part of a two part series on hypnosis.  I will explain what it is and how it can help you, both to relieve stress and to stay young.

There’s always a silver lining to what seems like our darkest days.  While in the hospital, I was introduced to the power of hypnosis and self-hypnosis.  I’ve never looked back.  While I lay, tense and stiff, in that hospital bed (right after they checked me in), and after I refused the pills they brought me in one of those little paper cups, a psychiatrist came to see me and told me he was going to hypnotize me.  I remember thinking that hypnosis was used for schizophrenic patients and the fear cursed through my body.  No, the doctor assured me that hypnosis was a natural way of relaxing.  Through hypnosis, he could talk directly to my subconscious mind and bypass all the clutter in my conscious mind.  He said I would always be in control and would never do anything I didn’t want to do.

Believe me.  I was skeptical, but after days of no sleep and racked with fear, I desperately needed to relax.  In a low, calm voice, the doctor told me to take a deep breath, hold it for five seconds and count to five as I let it out.  I repeated the deep breaths three times.  He then told me to imagine myself at the top of a mountain as the snow, soft and deep, fell softly around me.  He then guided me, as I skied effortlessly down the mountain, while he counted down from 10 to one.

Amazing—my neck muscles started to loosen up even though I couldn’t stop the barrage of skeptical thoughts.  But I started to relax—just a little.

When I reached the bottom of the mountain, the doctor suggested that I remain relaxed and calm.  Then, starting at my head, he told me to relax my eyes, unclench my teeth, relax my shoulders, back—every limb down to my toes.  After 30 minutes, he counted up from one to 10 and told me to open my eyes.

I felt more calm and less tense.  Then I fell asleep and slept for hours.  The doctor repeated this process every day for a week.  When I was released from the hospital, he gave me a tape to listen to every night before bed that would take me through the same relaxation technique.  I was training my mind to automatically relax by taking deep breaths when I felt afraid or tense.

To this day I listen to relaxation tapes, not only to fall asleep, but to reprogram negative thinking.  It works!   How and why does it work?  Read on.

What is Hypnosis?

A definition of hypnosis as cited in wiktionary.org is “…a trancelike state, artificially induced, in which a person has a heightened suggestibility…”  It operates on the law of concentrated attention.  The more you hear a suggestion, the more likely that the suggestion will be believed on the subconscious level.   Advertisers work on this principal bombarding us with the same message over and over.

Hypnosis is a way to access the subconscious mind directly.  The subconscious mind is that part of the mind that is intuitive.  All of our beliefs, habits and memories are stored in the subconscious.  It is our subconscious that causes us to react emotionally.  This is the part of the brain that is also responsible for our involuntary functions such as breathing and digestion.

Our conscious mind is responsible for logic and reasoning.  Any conscious act we do such as read, write, walk, do math, etc. comes from our conscious mind.  It is this part of our mind that is always thinking.

Hypnosis is effective because the deep relaxation calms and subdues the conscious mind so suggestions bypass the clutter and go directly into the subconscious where change can occur more effectively.  Studies have shown that hypnosis slows brain waves from cycling at 14-32 times per second down to as few as 4 times per second, which is the ideal speed for learning.

There are various benefits and uses of hypnosis, three of which I have experienced: reducing stress and anxiety, eliminating unwanted negative feelings, and increasing confidence and concentration.  Another widely used application of hypnosis is to reduce pain associated with disease or surgical procedures and in child-birth and dentistry.  Hypnosis was recognized as a valid therapeutic tool by the American Medical Association in 1958.

Following are some of the recordings I frequently listen to when I need to relax, concentrate, or just feel better.

Some of my favorite relaxation books and CDs

Louise L. Hay, CD “Morning Meditation”/”Evening Meditation”

Louise L. Hay, Book “You Can Heal Your Life”

Teri D. Mahaney, Ph.D. Book “Change Your Mind/Life”

Doreen Virtue, Ph.D. Book/CD “Chakra Clearing”

Glenn Harrold, CD “A Chakra Meditation”

There you have it—the mystery of hypnosis uncovered and how it can relieve stress and anxiety.  Thanks to self-hypnosis, I was able to recover from my acute anxiety without drugs and return to work and able to function normally.  Next week I’ll reveal how self-hypnosis can keep you young.  Do you have any experience with hypnosis?  If so, I love to hear about your experience.  Comment on my blog.  Want more articles on staying young and productive as you age?  Subscribe to my blog or like my Facebook fan page.  Looking for a speaker?  Check out my website.

Do you want free Interview/Resume Tips or Inspirational Quotes from a seasoned recruiter who’s placed over 1,000 people?  Sign up here.

Let’s break barriers together!

Dolores

Image courtesy of stockimages at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

 

Yoga woman_edited-3We are all aging.  But what does that mean to you?  How do you see yourself at age 60, 70, 80 and beyond?  Are you spending more money on facial serums and lotions to erase the years or getting a tuck here and there to save the fading figure.  Or maybe you exercise constantly.  Does it work?

Why this obsession with looking young?  I must admit, I suffer from this obsession.  Since I turned 60, I’m more conscious about getting old, or maybe I should say, looking old.  Yes, I exercise frequently but there is only so much exercise you can do and, still, your body changes.

So what’s the secret to the fountain of youth?

It’s a paradigm shift.  You need to reframe your thoughts from youth to youthfulness.  Youth conjures up thoughts of a young body, whereas youthfulness embodies life energy.  Youthfulness is being alive and in the world.  A youthful person is fun, interesting, and intriguing, no matter what age they happen to be.

I started running in my early 20’s.  At one of my first road races, I was passed by another runner.  In fact he flew by me.  Mind you, getting passed was not an unusual event.  However, this man looked to be in his 70’s and he had wings on his shoes.  He ran much faster than the other male runners 20 years younger.  It didn’t matter that he “looked old”.  His persona was high energy and I was mesmerized.  He’s the reason that I’m running.  I want to grow up like him, still active and living life in my 70’s and beyond.

Besides the obvious mistakes of not staying fit and not eating a healthy diet, here are the top five mistakes that will make you old.

  1. We stay in our comfort zone.

I belong to Toastmasters.  I joined about four years ago to practice public speaking.  I wasn’t a beginner at speaking.  In fact, I used to compete in speech contests in college.  But . . . how does that saying go?  Use it or lose it.  The first time I got up to speak, I was terrified.  When I tried Table Topics, I had a tough time talking for the minimum time of one minute.  Table Topics is impromptu speaking.  Someone asks a question and you must answer immediately, off the top of your head.  But I kept at it and it got easier.  Despite the terror I felt before that first speech, I walked away with a huge sense of accomplishment that I had overcome my fear.

Stepping out of your comfort zone is one of the best ways to stay young and to get the energy flowing.  Join a Toastmasters club, take dancing lessons, sing at karaoke night.  Do something different that gets your heart pumping.

  1. We quit dreaming.

We’ve all been around the person who simply exists from day to day.  Someone who’s given up on life.  They can suck the life out of you if you let them.  On the other hand, if you’re around someone who’s striving for a dream and living life to the fullest, it’s a joy to be around them.  They’re magnetic.  We’re drawn to their positive energy.

Were you ever told to quit daydreaming?  Don’t!  Daydreaming encourages creativity and makes the impossible possible.  Anything you manifest starts with a thought.  Keep dreaming and stay youthful.

  1. We get set in our ways.

One of my favorite authors, Louise Hay, talks about being rigid in her book You Can Heal Your Life.  “KNEES, like the neck, have to do with flexibility:  only they express bending and pride, ego and stubbornness.  Often when moving forward, we are fearful of bending, and we become inflexible.  This stiffens the joints.  We want to move forward, but we do not want to change our ways.  This is why knees take so long to heal; our ego is involved.”

Pilates teacher, Fiona du Plooy, says that she can tell your “real” age by how flexible your spine is.

If you are totally stiff, that’s an indication of the stiffness in your mind.  Take Pilates or yoga classes which not only help you stay flexible and strong, they teach you proper breathing and are meditative in nature.

  1. We quit learning.

Does aging slow the brain? Not necessarily.  Several sources reveal that keeping the brain stimulated stops cognitive decline.  But also consider the advantage that years of experience gives you in creating something new over a young person.  With age comes wisdom.  Yes, a young person can more easily think out of the box because they don’t know there is a box, but they don’t have the same experience to draw on.

The key to staying youthful and creative is to believe you can.  Much of the decline in cognitive abilities is because of a lack of challenge.  Stay challenged, and stay youthful. 

  1. We quit making love.

Did you know that women who enjoy sex live longer?  According to Mehmet Oz, MD and author of YOU:  Being Beautiful, “Double your amount of satisfying sex and add up to three years to your life.”  He didn’t address men in the article, but I’m sure it helps them as well.  There are many physical and mental benefits to having sex such as decreased stress, increased self-esteem, increased heart rate, and allowing the ability to surrender to pleasure.  It’s fun and what is life without fun?  Have more sex and stay youthful.

In summary, as you age, focus on staying youthful, as opposed to young.  As I write in my soon to be published book, Breaking Barriers, “Middle age is not the transition to old age, but the transition to mastery—the mastery of a life of learning and experience.  It’s our time to shine.”

Please like my fan page and/or subscribe to my blog.  Do you want 26 free inspirational quotes to help keep you motivated?  Sign up here.  Want to know when my book is published?  Sign up here.

Let’s break barriers together!

Dolores

Image courtesy of stockimages at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Ah yes…the theory of gravity from Sir Isaac Newton.  If it weren’t for gravity, running up those God forsaken hills would be so much easier.

I love to run on the trails.  There’s something about being in natural surroundings that’s revitalizing for the soul.  It’s a great way to de-stress and re-connect to what’s really important in life—feeling alive and free.   I’m lucky to live in Southern California with the opportunity to run several great trails within easy driving distance.  One of my favorite trails to run is Bommer Canyon in Irvine.  It’s only a 10 minute drive from my home.  Once I get there, I’m transformed from the city to a spacious, open-space preserve.

Now, back to gravity.  I’ve never really enjoyed running hills.  I know they make you strong, but I started running in Kansas, not in the Flint Hills mind you, in the Wichita area.  There are no hills to speak of.  So my first 10 years of running didn’t include hills.  Then I moved to sunny Southern California.  I must admit, I loved not having to deal with constant weather change and wind chill during my runs.  But what I wasn’t prepared for were the hills.  Well to me, they seemed more like mountains.

Here I am at the start of my trail run.  I look happy.

Bommer Canyon-Me 6-1-14

 

 

 

 

 

 

The trail starts with a slight elevation.  Beautiful, isn’t it?

Gentle up hill

 

 

 

 

 

 

Then the elevation gets less slight.  It’s still beautiful.

Less slight

 

 

 

 

 

 

The trail is still going up.  Who can see the scenery now?

And up1

 

 

 

 

 

 

And up.

 

Still going up1

 

 

 

 

 

 

I can see the top.

 I can see the top

 

 

 

 

 

There’s the top…finally.

The top

 

 

 

 

 

 

The really nice thing about going up for 3 miles, is that I get to turn around and go back down.  Another nice thing I noticed—I did get stronger on the hills.  Isn’t it funny?  When you force yourself to move out of your comfort zone and push ahead, the task becomes easier over time.  It feels good to not be intimidated anymore.  That’s how to stay young in life.  Keep trying something new.  Keep pushing yourself out of your comfort zone.  Before long, you’ll be soaring up the hills and enjoying the ride back down.

Let’s break barriers together!

Book Update—I’m close!  I’m about to turn the book over to my editor.  Meanwhile I’ve produced my first audio CD HOW TO NEVER BE UNEMPLOYED—Featuring The Ten Keys To Writing A Resume That Get’s Interviews and I’m in the process of producing my second audio CD THE NINE KEYS TO EFFECTIVE INTERVIEWING—Learn The Most Important Secret To Finding A Job.  They will both be available soon on my almost live website www.doloreslara.com.

Okay…I knew it was yesterday.  How could you miss the hype?  You’d have to be bound and gagged and locked in a room shut off from any communication to not know.  You may have guessed, I’m not a football fan—nor am I a fan of Super Bowl parties.  Yes, I could sit in a room full of shouting and cheering people eating and drinking themselves into Super Bowl heaven, or I could go out for a run.  I live in beautiful Southern California—I decided to run.

It was 72 degrees and the sun was shining.  A gentle breeze was blowing over the Back Bay in Newport Beach.  I laced up my Asics Gel-Cumulus shoes, set my IPod Nano to my favorite song list and started out at a slow jog—to work out the kinks.  Stairway to Heaven drifted into my ears as I gazed at the deep blue bay.  Flocks of birds peppered the sky. 

I picked up the pace as I turned the corner and passed a woman pushing her baby in a stroller.  She smiled and waved.  I guess she didn’t care about missing Beyoncé’s highly touted, “live” half-time performance.  I pushed on as I wiped the sweat from my left eye and took a long drink from my water bottle. 

I ran along Pacific Coast Highway and over the bridge as I turned around and back toward the Back Bay.  Two bicyclers flew by from behind.  I cruised along the straightaway—effortlessly.  I was free and light.  Chariots of Fire floated into my ears.  I made the final push up the hill to the lookout point on Eastbluff.  I made it—10 miles. 

I took a deep breath and walked a bit to cool down.  I always love the way I feel after a run—peaceful, happy.  Isn’t that what running is really about?  I hope it was a good game—for those who stayed indoors to watch it. Maybe I’ll catch the Super Bowl next year. 

 

Note:    My book, Breaking Barriers, will be published in 2013.  Email me at dolores@breakingbarriersblog.com if you are interested in being included on the email list.  “No, sheer effort is not the key to getting what we want.  It’s much easier than that.  Yes—easier.”

Happy New Year!  I hope you had a wonderful holiday season and didn’t get sick.  I did!  I got a bad case of the flu.  I’m an avid runner—isn’t that supposed to keep me healthy?  I just heard on the news that we are having the worst flu season in years and to get your flu shot ASAP.  I, for one, do not believe in flu shots.  I got one back when I worked in public accounting in the 1970’s and then got the flu.  Oh yes, I heard that the shots are different now, but I haven’t complied and the last time I got the flu was about 25 years ago—that is until this last Christmas.

I took a trip back home, to freezing Wichita, Kansas and to temps in the 30’s.  That is not comfortable for anyone but especially a lightweight from Southern California.  My parents hosted Christmas dinner to 25 people.  It was wonderful until later that night when I started throwing up at about the same time my son started throwing up.  Then I heard my sisters’ family was all throwing up.  Then a couple of days later my parents got sick and then my sister got sick.  About half of the dinner attendees got the flu.  Yuck!

I have always prided myself on being healthy.  I take various vitamins and herbs and I exercise frequently.  I am surprised that my immune system would allow me to get the flu.  But the fact is, the strength of our immune systems depends on many factors such as stress, what we eat, how much we sleep, and how we exercise.

Let’s focus on how we exercise.  I did some research on running and the immune system, since I run.  But it makes sense that you could expand this information to other forms of aerobic exercise.  It appears that 30 to 40 minutes of moderate daily exercise will strengthen the immune system while longer runs will weaken it temporarily.  The longer and more intense you work out, the more cortisol levels increase and this can weaken the immune system for up to three days.   The good news is that if you allow your body to recover, then your immune system will adapt and get stronger.  That is why rest is very important, especially after an intense workout like a long distance run or speed work.    

It was also interesting to learn that long slow distance can weaken your immune system more than a shorter intense workout.  Why?  Long slow distance uses slow-twitch muscle fibers which feed on simple sugars—the same as the immune system.  So it’s important to not increase volume and intensity at the same time.  Keep your intense workouts short.  Here is a great link on how to keep your immune system strong.  http://www.runnersworld.com/health/immune-it-all

If you want to read about studies conducted on running and the immune system, try this link.  http://www.pfitzinger.com/labreports/immune.shtml

So, I’m thinking, yes, I have been training hard the last two months to get my running speed and mileage up to where it was before I quit running and just did yoga for two months.  I have increased volume and intensity at the same time and stressed my immune system.  My body is telling me to relax and slow down.  The moral of this story is to listen to your body.  I survived the Kansas weather and the flu and hope to not have to experience the flu again for at least another 25 years.  Run smart and stay healthy this winter. 

Note:    My book, Breaking Barriers, will be published in 2013.  Email me at dolores@breakingbarriersblog.com if you are interested in being included on the email list.  “No, sheer effort is not the key to getting what we want.  It’s much easier than that.  Yes—easier.”

Stress is something that is hard to define.  It affects us in different ways.  But we all agree that stress wreaks havoc on the body and the mind.  The effects of stress are ugly indeed and range from depression, anxiety, heart attacks, stroke, immune system disturbances, rashes, gastrointestinal problems, insomnia and the list goes on.

At the age of 57, I have learned to manage my stress through exercise and I also use self-hypnosis (see Premium Content).  As a result, I am highly fit and mentally healthy (I think).  I learned my lesson the hard way.  When I was in my twenties I had a nervous breakdown.  I did not know how to relax, I perceived my job in a big eight CPA firm as overwhelming and I suffered from insomnia.  It got so bad, that I checked myself into the hospital—terrified of facing one more day. But it was this very difficult experience that introduced me to the relaxation technique of self-hypnosis.  A couple of years later, I discovered exercise, specifically running, and that was when my health dramatically improved.

Does running reduce stress?  Of course.  Using myself as an example, I have faced many difficult life challenges since my twenties and I used running to help me through all of them.  Running is a great way to work off anger and anxiety.  I ran my way through a divorce, business dissolution, emotionally abusive relationship and this last devastating recession.  Yes, I’m an executive recruiter and I’m still standing–but that’s another story.  I emerged from my life challenges—healthy and strong.

Besides the anti-aging benefits (see October 23rd blog entry) and the ability to burn approximately 100 calories an hour, running lowers blood pressure and decreases bone and muscle loss.  Besides feeling better about your slimmed down body, there are additional psychological benefits to running.  Running can be a way to spend quality time with yourself or to socialize.  Running releases endorphins, the “feel good” hormone.  Endorphins reduce pain, enhance the immune system and relaxation.  As an avid runner, I appreciate the feel-good effects of running.  If I go a couple of days without running, I start to feel agitated.  Yes, running can feel good!

But it is not only running that produces all of these benefits, any form of aroebic exercise will work.  Walking is a great way to start if you are not accustomed to exercise.  Of course there is bicycling, skiing, tennis, swimming—to name a few.  The point is the get out there and move.  It’s not too late to start experiencing increased energy and vitality–at any age.

 

 

 

I am living proof of the anti-aging benefits of running.  After running for over 30 years and completing 14 marathons to date, I am in the best shape of my life.  This is evidenced by my personal record in the marathon last May at the age of 57.  My time of 3:53:23 qualified me to run the Boston Marathon for the second time in my life (qualifying for the first time at the age of 54).

I can also say that I am the happiest I’ve ever been—more at peace.  I always relied on running to carry me through the various challenges of my life.  Yes, life always looked better after a run.  Due to a long-term study by the Stanford University Medical Center, there is now evidence to support my over-the-top long-term marathon habit.  Maybe I’m not so crazy after all…

This study followed 500 runners, all 50 years and older, over 20 years and produced some very interesting and enlightening results.  Long-term running produces numerous benefits as we age.

Runners enjoy a longer life and quality of life.  Nineteen years into the study, 15% of the runners had died compared to 35% of non-runners.  In addition, runners lived 16 years longer without the incidence of disability as compared to non-runners.  Even better news was uncovered for runners who ran into their 80’s.  Their incidence of cancer, neurological disease and other infections decreased even further.

Running improves neurogenesis in the brain.  Running creates new neurons and encourages connections between brain cells enhancing overall brain function as we age.  This wards off Dementia and Alzheimer’s.

Running reduces stress and increases well-being.  It is well known that running releases endorphins and serotonin, but it also increases dopamine, a neurotransmitter that affects the reward and motivation areas of the brain.  While stress kills brain cells, running improves brain performance and enhances well-being and encourages an active life-style as we age.

Runners are healthier.  Running decreases the risk of death by 50% as compared to non-runners by improving the heart and immune system, lowering resting blood pressure.  Running increases blood flow which reduces hardening of brain arteries and encourages the body’s production of anti-bodies and lymphocytes or T-cells that fight off cancer and infections.

So what is the best workout program to stay young?  According to John Ratey, M.D., start well-before your senior years and do some form of aerobic activity six days a week for 45 minutes to an hour.  This should include two sessions a week for strength training with weights and 2 sessions a week of balance and flexibility exercises like yoga, dance or martial arts.  Dr. Ratey recommends running the most since it benefits the heart, the immune system, increases brain neurogenesis and emotional well-being.

If you are a senior and aren’t accustomed to exercise, Dr. Ratey recommends seeing a doctor first.  Walking is a good low intensity aerobic activity to start until you are ready to increase the intensity.  The benefits are great even when starting an exercise routine later in life.

When I am not training for a marathon, my weekly work-out routine includes four days of running five to seven miles (including one speed workout), one long run of 10 to 11 miles, two days of weight training (including one circuit-training workout) and one day of yoga.  The weight training is key in keeping my bones strong and maintaining upper body strength and the yoga is key in maintaining what little flexibility I have and will allow me to run for many years to come.

So there you have it.  The evidence is quite clear—exercise.  Even if it isn’t running, do something aerobic and improve the length and quality of your life.  Life is a wonderful gift—get out there and enjoy it!

 

 

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