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Health and wellbeing - March 2017

28 Feb 2017

By Andrew Ward

Regular yoga practise has many positive health outcomes that should have us asking why yoga doesn’t appear at least once on our busy schedules each week.

Here is a list of eight great benefits associated with regular yoga practise that might help convince you to make yoga part of your 2017 weekly routine:

Improved flexibility – It won’t take long, but with regular practise you will notice your muscles become more supple, flexible and will lengthen with every class;

Strength – Your muscles will not only start to look better, they will start to do their job helping you move, balance and protect your bones and joints from impact, injury or fall;

Healthy joints – Moving your joints through their full range of motion will help increase their strength and reduce the onset of arthritis and degenerative disease;

Healthy bones – The weight bearing exercises and posture in yoga will help retain bone density and avoid osteoporosis;

Weight loss – Losing weight is often the result of moving more and eating less. You can take a yoga class at your own pace, but it can also be a very vigorous way to exercise where you can expend a lot of energy;

Stress less – Scientific tests show that yoga helps with reducing stress levels, lowering blood pressure and help reduce the production of the stress hormone cortisol, which has detrimental health impacts when levels are high for long periods of time;

Improved circulation – Yoga will get your heart working more efficiently and ensure blood and oxygen flow to all the cells, tissues and organs within your body, especially to the extremities; and

Improved mental health – Regular yoga practise helps reduce depression and increase the production of serotonin, the happy hormone. Meditation is also highly recommended for addressing mental health conditions and improving general health and wellbeing.

Keeping young people active

Spiralling levels in obesity and inactivity in young people are cause for alarm.

The life expectancy of Australians had been increasing consistently over the past decades thanks to increases in affluence, health care and improved lifestyles and living conditions and we should all be grateful for that.

Unfortunately though, for the coming generations, this indicator of life expectancy has now began to shockingly slip backwards into decline. In plain terms, our children and their children will (if nothing changes) live shorter lives and suffer a greater prevalence of health-related diseases like diabetes, heart disease and obesity.

As parents, or just through general observation, we have seen a fast and dramatic turn away from traditional play and outdoor activities to an obsession with technologies that paralyse the movement of kids. I think we have all seen the hypnotic effect a device has on kids (and some adults!).

My point here is that technology and devices are not bad, they are the future so let’s not fight that. Instead, it’s time to bring back some active fun alternatives for this and future generations.

Whenever I get my kids outdoors and active, I ask them “Is this better than playing on the iPad?” and the answer every time is “absolutely!” So, my advice for other parents or influencers of children is to provide more options and opportunities to be active and to be more innovative.

If you are lazy and not motivated to be active, your kids will in most cases follow and replicate your behaviour. Saying “go outside and play” won’t solve the problems – it will require your energy, leadership and effort to develop new active interests and a new love of outdoor activities for your children.

I will take this opportunity to recognise YMCA Victoria in its development of the “Playnasium” concept. YMCA is now building playgrounds suitable for 0-7 year old children that introduce concepts of exercise into play. One of the many great benefits of the Playnasium is that parents can do some exercise with their children at the same time. Well done YMCA!

Physical and mental health benefits of exercise

We all know that a regular exercise routine can have great benefits for our health and well-being. The National Guidelines for Physical Activity and Sedentary Behaviour recommends:

Adults (aged 18-64) should exercise with moderate intensity for at least 300 min/week; and

Children and Young People (aged 5-17) need at least 60 minutes of vigorous activity EVERY day.

Please take a minute to check where you, your family and friends are in this regard. Do they need your help to live a healthier life? Working out or exercising with family and friends is a great way to build healthier and happier families and communities. Why don’t you take the lead?

Have you heard about the brain chemical serotonin? Exercise helps stimulate the synthesis of serotonin and maintain healthy levels within the brain and body. Low levels of serotonin are associated with depression, whereas higher levels are associated with “feeling great!”

Aerobic activities like walking, running, riding and swimming are noted as better forms of exercise for serotonin production but, of course, any form of activity is better than none at all.

So if you notice any of your friends are going through a tough time, one of the best things you could do is to get them exercising!

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