Exercise protects against brain shrinkage in old age

To all of you out there, who are trying to stay mentally sharp well into high age: Throw out all of your brain training software or videogames such as memory activities.  You are just wasting time, at least according to a recently published study in the Journal Neurology of the American Academy of Neurology. Instead, start running, biking, swimming, hiking or whatever kind of physical exercise you may prefer. The study showed that only physical activities were a significant neuroprotective factor.

Close to 700 people in Scotland, all born in 1936 and 70 years old when initially surveyed by the researchers participated at the study. They were asked about exercise habits and physical activity level, and also about their social life with friends and family or whether they did mentally stimulating activities.

Three years later, at age 73, the participants were given MRI brain scans. The result was that those, who did more exercise had less age related brain shrinkage and fewer white matter lesions. Participation at socially or mentally stimulating activities on the other hand didn’t make a difference in regards to the aging effect on brain size.

In conclusion, there seems to be no way around it: If we want to stay physically and mentally healthy as long as possible, exercise is the method of choice.

For me, these are expected but not necessarily welcome news. I don’t enjoy working-out and exercise though I’m regularly running 15 to 20 miles per week even in winter. I started a few years ago when age-related weight and health issues became bothersome. As I found out, it’s tough to completely change your lifestyle when you are already over 50 but with self-control and motivation, it’s doable.

It’s much easier when you have outside support and this is where a life coach can really be of tremendous assistance. A life coach will help you to set the right goals and develop a plan with you how to achieve these goals. There are many things to consider: for example don’t set the goal too high to prevent disappointment but high enough to be challenging. Also, if you add roughly three hours of exercise time per week as recommended, where do you find the time in your schedule? What would you be willing to give up to free time for exercise? How could you incorporate physical activities in your daily schedule like taking the stairs instead of the elevator, walking to the post office or mowing the lawn and raking the leaves yourself instead of hiring a company? A life coach will also cheer you on and celebrate your victories with you. I’m a life-coach and psychologist myself and I know I couldn’t have done the change from a couch-potato lifestyle to running a 10 k  without using my professional knowledge for my own benefit .

This being said, it’s a nice sunny and moderately cold November day outside and I will go now for my daily run.

This post was written by Christiane Turnheim. Christiane is life-coach at Coach4U.net and teaches psychology at a community college in Massachusetts. Email her for a free introductory coaching session at <http://www.privatedaddy.com?q=GC1gMgsQewQAYj0-2BPBJAbjUOHQsqczY0RTc-3D_19> .

More about the topic exercise: http://www.coach4u.net/content/healthy_lifestyle_coaching/#entry_675

Sources for the blog entry: http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/10/121022162331.htm?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+sciencedaily+%28ScienceDaily%3A+Latest+Science+News%29


It’s all about the right motivation

Lack of sleep makes hungry

If you tried diet and exercise and you still gain pounds, ask yourself whether you are sleeping enough. Swedish researchers studied the effect of sleep deprivation on the brain and found that one area responsible for our reaction to food became more active after a sleepless night: http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/01/120118111740.htm


How to succeed with exercise goal

Improving wellness by doing more exercise and eating better is a popular New Year’s resolution. However, by now – not even two weeks later – many people have  a hard time sticking to these goals or even gave already up. According to a study by Richard Wiseman in 2007, ultimately more than 80 % of the resolutions will fail.

My experience with my clients is that many people simply want too much and too fast without being able to incorporate necessary life style changes into their daily life. If you didn’t exercise for many years, don’t expect suddenly to spend five hours in the gym per week.

I was asked recently how it comes that I’m able to stick to my running regimen of 15 – 20 miles per week for two years now though I was never running before. Here is my answer:

After several failed attempts earlier, I did two things differently in 2010:

First, I started with a small step, just learning to run a half mile daily. I was in such a bad shape that this was difficult enough, however it took only a few minutes out of my daily schedule. I could afford these minutes and this way, I experienced at first the advantages of more exercise in the form of feeling better and being more energetic before I had the price to pay – giving up something that I did for fun to free up time for exercising. Once I got in better shape, I slowly increased the distance. The pounds started to come off when I was at about two miles per day. The weight loss was of course a big motivator and today I’m running in average a 5 K on most days of the week. I lost more than 30 pounds and I am in a better shape now than I was 20 years ago.  I’m sure had I started with a longer distance right away, I probably would not have made it.

The second reason why I’m still running is that I learned to incorporate the exercise into my daily life. It takes out 30 to 45 minutes every day, and to make this work, I started combining my errands with running. I do as much as possible local now and run to the post office, library, hair dresser, subway station etc., often carrying a small bag. I found out that it doesn’t take much more time than going by car because I can use a different route when running without having to stop at traffic lights, and of course at my destination, I don’t have to search for a parking spot. Being able to combine exercise with errands makes it much easier for me to stick to my close-to-20-miles-per- week- goal.

In summary, like many people, I also had failed in the past with my resolutions. Two points  made all the  difference in 2010: starting slow and finding a way to combine exercise with my day to day life .

Christiane Turnheim is life coach in private practice and psychologist instructor at a community college in the Boston area. You can reach her at <http://www.privatedaddy.com?q=GC1gMgsQewQAYj0-2BPBJAbjUOHQsqczY0RTc-3D_19>


Weight loss: Three square meals help to feel full

Most people, who are going on a diet, hear this advice: Stop eating three big meals per day. You will lose more weight if you eat smaller meals five or six times per day.

A new study conducted at Purdue University and published in the Journal Obesity turns this idea on its head. Eating three square meals per day with higher amounts of lean protein turned out to be superior to eating smaller meals.

For the research project, 27 overweight and obese men were divided in two groups: One ate a calorie-restricted high-protein diet for 12 weeks, the other group a normal protein diet with the same amount of calories as the high protein group. Starting at week 7, both groups were again divided into a 3- meals- per- day subgroup and a 6-meals- per- day subgroup. In each condition, the total amount of calorie –intake was the same.

Results: The high protein group felt compared to the normal protein group fuller throughout the day, was less likely to calorie, calories, calorie intakeexperience late night hunger and was less obsessed with thinking about food. Within the high protein group, those who had three big meals had less late evening/ night hunger than those who had smaller meals 6 times per day.

Hence, the researchers recommend eating three high protein meals per day to achieve the individual weight loss goal.

How to achieve weight loss goal

Only a few days into January and many New Year’s resolutions are probably already abandoned.

One of the most popular resolutions is to lose weight. This year, I joined those who want to shed some extra pounds in 2011. I’m optimistic that I will be successful as for me it’s about continuing what I achieved last year. 20 pounds are already gone; another ten shall follow in 2011.

Like many people, I have tried in the years before several times to lose weight. Like so many others, I also struggled with the typical pattern of losing and gaining back – until last March, when I had enough.

Two ways to lose weight:

There are only two ways to lose weight. Either you cut down on calories or you burn more than you consume by increasing physical activity.

In previous diets I focused on cutting calories. As this didn’t work so well because I can’t deal with hunger, I had only one path left: exercise! I have never been the athletic type, and frankly, I don’t enjoy workouts in gyms or running on sidewalks of busy streets, right next to car exhaust fumes. But I needed to do something and so I began jogging, and was at first shocked to learn that I could hardly run for a mile. With time and perseverance, I made it eventually to five miles. The weight loss started when I ran in minimum three miles on at least five days per week. I keep doing this despite winter temps and snow outside, but I still don’t enjoy it – however, I do enjoy the results.

On the positive side, I didn’t need to make major changes to my diet. I did replace caloric drinks like fruit juice and sweetened tea with water, though, and cut down on cookies and candy. Other than that, I’m eating normal meals and don’t go hungry.

After nine months of running, I know that I found a weight management technique that works for me- and will work in future as I will have to keep running to avoid gaining back the pounds I have shed.

It works for me because it didn’t require extreme life tyle changes – I just had to make room for 30 – 50 minutes of running. (Sometimes now, I’m literally running my errands like running to the library or to a store)

Secret to weight loss

I firmly believe this is the secret to achieving your weight loss goal: You must find a way that doesn’t require major changes in your daily routine or diet because it’s hard to stick with something that is totally different. I think, this is the problem with most of these fancy diets – they are too different to our normal grocery shopping, food preparation, and eating routine, and therefore after a while we go back to our old (unhealthy) eating habits and portion sizes.

If you want to lose weight and keep the pounds off, you must make changes that last.

Start by listing your biggest diet sins, and then, perhaps step by step, eliminate or reduce these sins. Instead of two spoons of sugar in coffee, only one; instead of a muffin only two small cookies….eat the burger, but only half of the bun and half of the fries….Also, add exercise. It’s good for your health and will speed up the weight loss. You may not lose 20 pounds in 12 weeks, but if you develop new healthier eating and exercise habits that you can stick with, you will keep off what you lose.

Posted by Christiane Turnheim. Christiane is Life & Career coach, author of “Learn to Love Your Job” , and teaches Psychology at a Community College in Massachusetts.

No time for workout? A few minutes may be enough.

Do you also occasionally wonder how some folks manage to go to the gym three or four times per week for an hour or more? I do, because with kids, house, garden and last but not least, two jobs squeezing out time for the gym seems impossible. I do know, it’s recommended – still, I don’t have time for it and this is no excuse. Now, at least, I don’t need to feel guilty anymore about the little exercise I do.

A study at McMaster University in Canada has shown that doing several times per week high-intensity interval training (HIT) is as beneficial for your health as  traditional long term exercise. For the study, volunteers did three times per week ten one-minute sprints on a stationary bike with one minute rest in between. In total they got 30 minutes of exercise. The results of the study were  published in the March issue of the Journal of Physiology .

What I learned from this study is that in good conscience I can replace hours of endurance training, for which I don’t have time in my busy life,  with a few minutes of intense exercise on my stationary bike. Works for me.

Christiane is Life coach and psychologist. Contact her at www.coach4u.net

Does Candy Eating Predict Violence?

According to a new British study, children who eat more candy at age 10 are more likely to be convicted for violence as adults. Where does this leave us parents? Should we switch our kids to a sugarless diet? Well, not so fast.

Let me tell you first a bit more about the study. Researchers from the University of Cardiff in England studied 17 000 children born in 1970. Their rationale for the study:

“Diet has been associated with behavioural problems, including aggression, but the long-term effects of childhood diet on adult violence have not been studied. We tested the hypothesis that excessive consumption of confectionery at age 10 years predicts convictions for violence in adulthood (age 34 years). Data from age 5, 10 and 34 years were used. Children who ate confectionery daily at age 10 years were significantly more likely to have been convicted for violence at age 34 years, a relationship that was robust when controlling for ecological and individual factors.“

Source: British Journal of Psychiatry, 2009 Oct;195(4):366-7; ; retrieved on 10/18/2009

So, there is a relationship (correlations) between eating daily sweets as a child and violent behavior as adult. However, it would be a common mistake now to infer that one event explains the other. As always with correlations, there could be other variables that explain both, chocolate and candy eating behavior and tendency to aggression.

Possible is that some parents always reward good behavior immediately with candy or cookies. Those kids then may learn to always expect immediate gratification instead of learning to wait for future rewards. Thus, the parents may have nurtured impulsive behavior.

As researcher, I would look into the possibility that temperament is the cause for both: children with impulsive temperaments will probably have self control issues with respect to chocolates and candies and as adults later also self control issues with respect to conflicts with others.

The researchers of the British study say that it’s too early to warn parents about a negative impact of sweets on their children’s behavior. Nevertheless, already previous studies have shown that better nutrition leads to better behavior, and this fact applies to children and adults. For example, a University of Southern California Study showed in 2004 that malnutrition in the first few years of life leads to antisocial and aggressive behavior throughout childhood and late adolescence. Read more

Bilinguals: Do they switch off one language?

Recently it happened again: in the middle of a lecture about the history of psychology, I used a German expression. I didn’t even notice it at first, only the puzzled look of my students told me that something was wrong.

As I’m even thinking now more and more in English, it surprises me that occasionally German words would unconsiously sneak in when I’m speaking English. A group of Dutch psychologists now found an explanation:

Bilinguals Are Unable To ‘Turn Off’ A Language Completely, Study Shows
ScienceDaily (2009-08-19) — With a vast majority of the world speaking more than one language, it is no wonder that psychologists are interested in its effect on cognitive functioning. For instance, how does the human brain switch between languages? Are we able to seamlessly activate one language and disregard knowledge of other languages completely? … > read full article

6 Tips to fight the Winter Blues

Are you one of those people who dread winter? I am. I don’t like the cold, the snow and the ice. Just today, I was trying for about one hour to get rid of the half inch of ice that was covering our driveway and stairs. If I could, I would hibernate.


Some people suffer in the winter months from seasonal affective disorder (SAD). The symptoms are among others lack of energy, and changes in sleep and eating behaviors. People with SAD should see a physician to discuss treatment options.


Those of us, who feel just a little dragged down by the long winter, may find help with the following tips against the Winter Blues:


1. Eat extremely healthy:  Lots of veggies, fruit, and nuts. Reduce sugar and all starchy food.

2. Force yourself out into Mother Nature.  Walk, go sledding, and ice skating or skiing. Be active and try to catch as many sunrays as possible (of course, with proper sun cream protection)

3. Exercise regularly – at least 15 to 30 minutes daily.  Even a brisk walk to the bus stop might suffice.

4. Meet your friends as often as possible. If you can’t meet, then talk on the phone.

5. Surround yourself with beautiful things: flowers, listen to music, candlelight

6. Start a project; something, you always wanted to do but never had time for: organize your photos, paint your apartment, and try out new recipes…


Basically, keep active and you will see: time flies by and suddenly, it’s spring again.


Christiane is psychologist and a professional Life Coach. Her website is www.coach4u.net