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Work out; get happy!

Since I first began my career in lecturing and writing on matters of health and fitness more than 20 years ago I have doggedly insisted that if persons exercise with moderate intensity four or five days a week, within two or three weeks they’ll feel so much better that they won’t want to stop. A recent article in the online publication by Blue Cross/Blue Shield of North Carolina bears this out – and then some.

The article by Michelle Rogers offers several reasons. The first is that exercise increases blood flow to the brain. Approximately one-quarter of the blood sent from your heart with each beat goes to the brain, providing oxygen and nutrients and removing accumulated waste products. But in addition the extra blood flow causes the release of endorphins and serotonin, chemicals that provide a feeling of well-being.

Physical activity also increases the delivery of blood to muscles and thereby removes chemicals that accumulate during stress and that can negatively affect the brain.

A growing number of studies show that persons with major forms of depression who exercise show improvement in a matter of weeks, either with exercise alone or in addition to prescription medication. Considering that antidepressants often cause considerable side effects, anything that leads to at least a reduction of dosage should be considered.

You have probably heard of “runner’s high”, the euphoria that long-distance runners experience. Fret not – you don’t need to become a marathoner. The feel-good effects of exercise have been documented to occur with only short bouts of exercise a few days per week. Brisk walking fills the bill and won’t leave you needing knee replacements by the time you get that first Social Security check.

The lesson: get moving and get happy.


Another annoyance of aging: dehydration

One of the challenges of getting older is that by the time we reach the half-century mark (!) the thirst mechanism doesn’t work as well to warn us that we need to take in more fluid. That helps to explain why so many seniors succumb to dehydration during extremely hot weather. Dehydration is another reason why we feel fatigued. When our fluid intake lags our thinking gets fuzzy and dulls the signal that we need a refreshing drink. As a result, most seniors experience dehydration from time to time.

There is another risk to frequent episodes of dehydration: kidney stones.

Forget about those mathematical formulas that tell you to take ________(fill in the blank) ounces of fluid __________(fill in the blank) times a day. Ambient temperature, humidity, activity level, prescription medications and medical issues can be so variable that the math is meaningless.

The solution is absurdly simple: drink enough fluid (preferably plain water) so that your urine is consistently a light yellow color with only a slight odor. Dark, smelly urine increases the risk of kidney stones. Don’t overdo it either. If your urine looks like tap water and has no odor it puts you at risk of convulsions, a condition that is commonly seen in long-distance runners at the end of a race when they overdo rehydration.

Dehydration also increases the risk of heart attack and stroke, and for travelers on long trips there is an increased risk of forming blood clots in the legs – deep vein thrombosis, also known as economy class syndrome.

Although plain water should be your beverage of choice, any kind of liquid will do. Keep in mind that most foods consist of 80-90 percent water. And yes, a glass of wine or a bottle of beer will help to prevent dehydration, in case you need an excuse.






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