happiness · health · play · youtube

Prancercising, Inspired by Play

Everyone’s been having fun learning about Prancercise, created by Joanna Rohrback. Sure it’s a little silly, but that’s sort of the point. Joanna even says that the workout is inspired by horses prancing, and should be motivated by fun:

Prancercise® is defined as: A springy, rhythmic way of moving forward, similar to a horse’s gait and ideally induced by elation. It’s about Self-Expression. It’s about Non-violence. It’s about Conservation.

Exercise doesn’t need to be grueling and difficult, it can be fun. People stick with exercise programs longer if it’s fun, and exercise has been shown to be more effective when it’s fun.

So while blogs like the Huffington Post are poking fun at Prancercising, in a way it’s a great reminder to have fun with your exercise routine.

behavior · disease · health · neuroscience · play

How exercise affects the brain: Age and genetics play a role

Supervised physical therapy may be helpful to ...
Exercise effects the brain in multiple ways. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

From Science Daily:

Exercise clears the mind. It gets the blood pumping and more oxygen is delivered to the brain. This is familiar territory, but Dartmouth’s David Bucci thinks there is much more going on.

“In the last several years there have been data suggesting that neurobiological changes are happening — [there are] very brain-specific mechanisms at work here,” says Bucci, an associate professor in the Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences.

From his studies, Bucci and his collaborators have revealed important new findings:

The effects of exercise are different on memory as well as on the brain, depending on whether the exerciser is an adolescent or an adult.

A gene has been identified which seems to mediate the degree to which exercise has a beneficial effect. This has implications for the potential use of exercise as an intervention for mental illness.

more via How exercise affects the brain: Age and genetics play a role.

behavior · brain · cognition · health · play

Make your cells cleaner by exercising

Cells stained for keratin and DNA: such parts ...
For cleaner cells, work up a sweat. Image via Wikipedia

We joke about getting the cobwebs out of our brain, but it turns out there really is some truth to that. And one of the best ways to give our bodies a thorough spring (or winter, or fall…) cleaning, is not through cleansing diets or saunas, but exercise! It’s beneficial on so many levels, including making you cleaner and a better environment for yourself down to the cellular level!

In the new research, which was published last month in Nature, scientists at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas gathered two groups of mice. One set was normal, with a finely tuned cellular scrubbing system. The other had been bred to have a blunted cleaning system.

It’s long been known that cells accumulate flotsam from the wear and tear of everyday living. Broken or misshapen proteins, shreds of cellular membranes, invasive viruses or bacteria, and worn-out, broken-down cellular components, like aged mitochondria, the tiny organelles within cells that produce energy, form a kind of trash heap inside the cell.

In most instances, cells diligently sweep away this debris. They even recycle it for fuel. Through a process with the expressive name of autophagy, or “self-eating,” cells create specialized membranes that engulf junk in the cell’s cytoplasm and carry it to a part of the cell known as the lysosome, where the trash is broken apart and then burned by the cell for energy.

Without this efficient system, cells could become choked with trash and malfunction or die. In recent years, some scientists have begun to suspect that faulty autophagy mechanisms contribute to the development of a range of diseases, including diabetes, muscular dystrophy, Alzheimer’s and cancer. The slowing of autophagy as we reach middle age is also believed to play a role in aging.

Read the full article at the New York Times: Exercise as Housecleaning for the Body

The best part is it doesn’t seem to matter what kind of exercise, so anything from hop scotch to marathons will give you some benefit!

behavior · education · happiness · health · Social

Non-Elimination Games Leads to More Physically Active Children, Researchers Say | MomsTeam

A typical game of tic tac toe English: Tic tac...
Non-competitive games also have benefits. Image via Wikipedia

Interesting article about the value of non-elimination games (the original author focused on “non-competitive” but there are many competitive games that don’t involve elimination):

A study presented in May 2008 established that the structuring of children’s games has a significant effect on energy expenditure.

A research team led by Karla Bruggeman and David Dzewaltowski, Ph.D., measured activity during both elimination- and non-elimination games, using accelerometers, in 29 children in grades four through six. Both normal weight and overweight children participated in the study, but were not separated for analysis.

In non-elimination games, kids accrued more overall physical activity due to not having to spend time on the sidelines as a result of elimination. They also accumulated significantly more moderate and vigorous physical activity than elimination games. Both sets of games were adopted from a children’s program devised by a nonprofit group that uses various pieces of equipment to facilitate non-competitive play; elimination games were modified from non-competitive versions.

Children were surveyed for self-efficacy, enjoyment, and peer victimization following both types of games. Results showed that enjoyment was somewhat higher following elimination games, although enjoyment scores were high in non-elimination games as well. There were no reports of peer victimization in either set of games, but were significant increases in self-efficacy after both sets.

“The games in this study were part of fun and enjoyable day camp,” Bruggeman said. “It is likely that a well organized and positive game experience increases a kid’s confidence regardless of elimination or non-elimination game conditions.”

Again, the article author was focusing on non-competitive sports, but really the evidence is looking at non-elimination sports. While I don’t find anything wrong with competitive sports, I know they’re not everybody’s cup of tea, and I think it’s great to emphasize the fact that you don’t need to be playing on a team sport or competing against others in order to gain the same benefits from play. And there are lots of non-competitive physical activities that kids can and do partake in: parkour, running, climbing, digging in the dirt, parachute play, biking… what else? Name your favorite non-competitive physical activity in the comments.
behavior · creativity · health · youtube

30 minutes of play a day!

*edit*: NOW with working YouTube link. Thanks for NOT telling me, people, gosh! 😛

In case you’re still trying to come up with a new year’s resolution, or even if you think you’ve got your goals for 2012 all set, you might want to make room for one more.

Ryan Ford, the man behind the DemonDrills workouts on YouTube and owner of Apex Movement, a Parkour and Crossfit gym in Colorado, makes a very convincing argument for just how easy it is to incorporate 30 minutes of fun exercise, i.e. play, into your day:

You’d be amazed at how easy it is to add a little play into your day, and how quickly that play adds up. It also helps get the creative juices flowing and helps you see the world in new ways, so it’s also good brain exercise.

anthropology · behavior · culture · disease · health

Workplace Cited as a New Source of Rise in Obesity – NYTimes.com

Gli stand - FORUM PA 2011
The amount of physical activity in a typical work day has changed dramatically in the past 50 years. Image by Forum PA via Flickr

To be perfectly honest, I have gained a significant amount of weight since starting my new job in November. I avoid the free sodas but can’t resist the occasional free chocolate, and combined with being chained to my computer for typically 10 hours at a time (or more) BOY is it adding up. And apparently I am not alone:

A sweeping review of shifts in the labor force since 1960 suggests that a sizable portion of the national weight gain can be explained by declining physical activity during the workday. Jobs requiring moderate physical activity, which accounted for 50 percent of the labor market in 1960, have plummeted to just 20 percent.

The remaining 80 percent of jobs, the researchers report, are sedentary or require only light activity. The shift translates to an average decline of 120 to 140 calories a day in physical activity, closely matching the nation’s steady weight gain over the past five decades, according to the report, published Wednesday in the journal PLoS One.

Today, an estimated one in three Americans are obese. Researchers caution that workplace physical activity most likely accounts for only one piece of the obesity puzzle, and that diet, lifestyle and genetics all play important roles.

more via Workplace Cited as a New Source of Rise in Obesity – NYTimes.com.

Thankfully there are things I can do at work, like adjust my desk so that I can stand instead. I often take breaks to wiggle or stretch, and I get a discount at several local gyms. But this is not enough, and if we want to not have to pay for workers’ lifestyle-induced health problems, from obesity to carpal tunnel syndrome, we need to encourage businesses to improve health in the workplace!

For starters, no free candy and less hours expected of your workers! You’ll get more productive workers, really really!

behavior · children · design · learning · play · Social · technology

Download an Exercise Apps for Healthy Kids

The winners are in, and now you can reap the benefits!

The Apps for Healthy Kids competition is a part of First Lady Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move! campaign to end childhood obesity within a generation. Apps for Healthy Kids challenges software developers, game designers, students, and other innovators to develop fun and engaging software tools and games that drive children, especially “tweens” (ages 9-12) – directly or through their parents – to eat better and be more physically active.

via Apps for Healthy Kids.