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Why Travel Is So Good For Your Brain

Why Travel Is So Good For Your Brain

Travel has long been associated with wellness at virtually every age: it breaks up routines, pushes the reset button on our lives, and we encounter new places, people, and things.  When young, we think of summer camp or family vacations. For high school and college agers, we think of gap year travel or “study abroad” programs. In adulthood, we think of travel as a way to relax, easing the stresses and strains of our hectic work and family lives.

During midlife and older years, travel takes on a whole new importance. More than a third of all leisure travelers in the US are over 55, according to AARP, and half of all money spent each year on travel is by this age group. Because lifestyle enrichment plays a critical role in maintaining brain resiliency as we age, high levels of travel among older people can be great for our brain health. How a person lives each day can make a huge difference in keeping brains healthy, even influencing the delay or prevention of dementia and Alzheimer’s Disease.

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This new concept in wellness travel is emerging to improve not only the health of our body, but also our brain. The Global Coalition on Aging, in collaboration with the U.S. Travel Association, has released studies highlighting a clear connection between travel and wellbeing. The complexities of travel are shown to sharpen travelers’ brains as well as protect them from heart disease. The Framingham Heart Study cites numerous findings linking health and travel, including one that found women ages 45 to 64 who vacationed at least twice a year had a significantly lower risk for developing heart attacks or coronary death, compared with woman vacationing every six years or less.

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By its very nature, travel encourages people to be active, make new friends, explore, and set time aside for both play and restoration. Travel has the potential to ‘light up the brain’ across a diverse range of neural pathways, leading to many health and cognitive benefits.  For example, travel kick-starts a brain that has become mired in everyday routines. As people move into adulthood and retirement years, they gravitate toward routine activities and often avoid new experiences. In their quest to be more comfortable, they can deny themselves the joys and frustrations of facing challenges. We can fall into the trap of habituating ourselves to familiar tasks at work and at home with less time spent on exploration and play. In contrast, children and young adults tend to spend a lot of time in playful activities with friends, and a lot of time exploring, at school and elsewhere. Brains adhere to the “use it or lose it” rule, meaning pathways people use the most are strengthened, while sadly, those that are neglected become weak.

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Turn your next trip into powerful and long lasting brain‐boosting experiences with these four tips:

  1. Find and choose joyous experiences
  2. Be curious – seek out the new and different
  3. Care for others – whether its your own family or those you meet
  4. Play, rest, reflect on life – take time to restore your inner reserves

Based on the discovery of neuroplasticity, we know brains continue to grow and change throughout life. This means it’s never too late to learn new skills and benefit from a balanced menu of healthy activities. Travel is a wonderful way to take advantage of this gift by engaging in a variety of experiences that activate vital brain networks to keep brains healthy for a lifetime.

Stay tuned for our upcoming travel series;

How Travel “Lights Up Your Brain”

  1. Vacations really can add years to brain health and longevity!
  2. Turning art, music and architecture into brain boosters
  3. Why even trying to speak a foreign language is good for your brain
  4. How new experiences and learning about the world work magic on your brain
  5. Meaningful connections on the road can change your life and rewire your brain
  6. What does cultural immersion have to do with vitality and longevity?
  7. Why travel plans that go wrong can be good for your brain, but luxury may not be!

Featured photo credit: World In Your Hands Concept Map – Ed Gregory via stokpic.com

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Last Updated on May 22, 2019

10 Simple Morning Exercises That Will Make You Feel Great All Day

10 Simple Morning Exercises That Will Make You Feel Great All Day

There are lots of studies that show if you do some exercise in the morning, you will be in a better mood all day long. You will have more energy and you will certainly be a better colleague, friend or partner.

One psychologist at Duke University has researched the effects of exercise on depressed patients and he has come to the conclusion that exercise has a definite role in treating this condition and has an important role in preventing people from relapsing.[1] According to the New York Times, scientists have now established that exercise also boosts your brain power.[2]

In addition, there are studies from the Appalachian State University which show that blood pressure can be reduced by doing regular morning exercise.[3]

Here are 10 simple morning exercises that will help you feel great the whole day long. You can include some of them in your morning exercise routine or do them all at home without having to enrol in a gym. Consult your doctor before starting any form of exercise routine if you are new to this.

1. Cat Camel Stretch

Stretching exercises are useful for muscle toning and also preventing arthritis. They can either be dynamic or static.

Dynamic ones such as the cat camel stretch, are particularly useful for doing other exercises in the morning. They are also beneficial at other times of the day, especially after long periods of sedentary work. This one is great for spinal flexibility and is a good warm up exercise.

Kneel down on all fours. Start by rounding your back just like a camel so that your head will try to meet your pelvis. This is the camel position. Then lower and lift your head so that your lower back is arched. This is the cat position. Do these movements slowly and smoothly. About 4 or 5 times.

Here’s a video to guide you through:

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2. Go for a Walk or a Run

This is better done outside so that you can connect with nature but running inside on a treadmill is almost as good. You can time yourself and increase length and time according to your fitness program.

Always have new goals to reach. Start with brisk walking and work up to running. At my age, I am still walking!

The health benefits are considerable. You can build stronger bones and you can help to maintain your weight.

Also, you are helping your heart to stay healthy and keeping your blood pressure low.

Learn more about the benefits of running here: 8 Benefits of Running 5 Minutes Every Day You Didn’t Know

3. Jumping Jacks

Michelle Obama is a great fan of this exercise and has become “Jumper in Chief.”[4] They are great for cardiovascular health and also for toning muscles especially the calves and the deltoids.

Stand with feet together. Jump while spreading your arms and legs. Return to first position and keep going! You can start with doing these for 1 minute and then gradually build up to the number you are comfortable with. Here’s how:

4. Abductor Side Lifts

Watch the video below to see how to do this exercise. These muscles are important because you use them everyday to run, get into the car or onto and off a bicycle. They are very important also for your core stability and prevent the pelvis from tilting.[5]

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Do about 10 to 15 raises for each side like this:

5. Balancing Table Pose

This is a classic yoga pose. It benefits the spine, balance, memory and concentration.

Start with the table pose (hands and knees). Breathe in before starting each movement. As you exhale, raise your left leg parallel to the floor as you raise the right arm, also parallel to the floor. Breathe in as you lower arm and leg. Repeat for the other side. 10 repetitions on each side is a good starting point.

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    6. Leg Squats

    Not just legs are involved but also hips and knees.

    Stand with your feet a bit further out from your hips. Arms are out in front of you. Then lower yourself as if you wanted to sit down until you reach a 90 degree angle. You can go down further if you want to. Then return to the starting position. Repeat 15 times for 2 sets for beginners.

    The benefits are that these exercises help with knee stability and can benefit the leg muscles such as quadriceps, hamstrings and calves.[6]

    7. Push Ups

    You start lying down (face down) but with your body held up at arm’s length. Your hands should be in line with your shoulders. Breathe in as you lower your body. That is fairly easy. Now, as you exhale, you have to get back up to the starting position.

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    An easier version to start with is to bend your legs at the knees so you do not have to lift your whole body.

    Beginners may take up to a month to be able to do 100 push ups so you will have to start with a very small number and gradually increase it.

    This exercise is great for strengthening the chest, shoulders and the triceps. It is a great strengthening exercise for many muscle groups. In fact, most muscles from the toes to the shoulders are being used.

    8. Bicycle Crunches

    There are numerous crunch exercises targeting the abs. The bicycle crunch is a variation where you work more muscle groups. Aim for 15 to 20 reps to start off with.

    Watch the video to see how this is done correctly:

    9. Lunges

    Stand with feet shoulder width apart. Place your hand on your hips. Take one giant step forward with the right leg. Make sure the knee does not go too far forward, that is, past your toes. The left knee will go down to almost floor level. Alternate the legs as you go on.

    Try to do a set of between 8 and 12 reps for each leg. It is important to allow for a day of rest, so this exercise should be done on alternate days, especially if you are using weights.

    This exercise is great for strengthening and toning the quadriceps, glutes and hamstrings.

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    10. Bicep Curls

    You can do this sitting down so if you spend a lot of time on the phone, this is a great exercise to do.

    Choose suitable dumbbells or another household object that you can easily hold. Sit down with the dumbbell in your hand. You need to sit forward a bit so that your triceps can lean on your thigh to give you support.

    Then bring the weighted arm up to shoulder length and then down again. Exhale as you lift the weight and inhale as you lower it.

    Here’re some important notes before you start doing this exercise:

    Try to do one or two sets of about ten repetitions for each arm and then switch arms.

    These exercises are really useful for toning the arm muscles.[7] In addition, they can strengthen and tone the brachioradialis muscle located in the forearm. These are the muscles we use to pick up things when we flex the arm at the elbow so we use these muscles countless times a day.

    You may have to build in a rest day for the heavier exercises, numbers 6–10. On the rest days, you can do gentler stretching exercises and also some walking or running.

    Morning exercise is not only a great mood booster, but will help you keep your weight down and also sleep better![8] Start including one or some of these exercises in your morning routine!

    More Articles About Exercises for Beginners

    Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

    Reference

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