Monthly Archives: February 2017

Unexpected Benefits of Exercise

Many people hit the gym or pound the pavement to improve cardiovascular health, build muscle, and of course, get a rockin’ bod, but working out has above-the-neck benefits, too. For the past decade or so, scientists have pondered how exercising can boost brain function. Regardless of age or fitness level (yup, this includes everyone from mall-walkers to marathoners), studies show that making time for exercise provides some serious mental benefits.Get inspired to exercise by reading up on these unexpected ways that working out can benefit mental health, relationships, and lead to a healthier and happier life overall.

1. Reduce stress

Rough day at the office? Take a walk or head to the gym for a quick workout. One of the most common mental benefits of exercise is stress relief. Working up a sweat can help manage physical and mental stress. Exercise also increases concentrations of norepinephrine, a chemical that can moderate the brain’s response to stress. So go ahead and get sweaty — working out can reduce stress and boost the body’s ability to deal with existing mental tension. Win-win!

2. Boost happy chemicals

Slogging through a few miles on the ‘mill can be tough, but it’s worth the effort! Exercise releases endorphins, which create feelings of happiness and euphoria. Studies have shown that exercise can even alleviate symptoms among the clinically depressed . For this reason, docs recommend that people suffering from depression or anxiety (or those who are just feeling blue) pencil in plenty of gym time. In some cases, exercise can be just as effective as antidepressant pills in treating depression. Don’t worry if you’re not exactly the gym rat type — getting a happy buzz from working out for just 30 minutes a few times a week can instantly boost overall mood.

3. Improve self-confidence

Hop on the treadmill to look (and more importantly, feel) like a million bucks. On a very basic level, physical fitness can boost self-esteem and improve positive self-image. Regardless of weight, size, gender, or age, exercise can quickly elevate a person’s perception of his or her attractiveness, that is, self-worth  . How’s that for feeling the (self) love?

4. Enjoy the great outdoors

For an extra boost of self-love, take that workout outside. Exercising in the great outdoors can increase self-esteem even more . Find an outdoor workout that fits your style, whether it’s rock-climbing, hiking, renting a canoe, or just taking a jog in the park. Plus, all that Vitamin D acquired from soaking up the sun (while wearing sunscreen, of course!) can lessen the likelihood of experiencing depressive symptoms. Why book a spa day when a little fresh air and sunshine (and exercise) can work wonders for self-confidence and happiness?

5. Prevent cognitive decline

It’s unpleasant, but it’s true — as we get older, our brains get a little… hazy. As aging and degenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s kill off brain cells, the noggin actually shrinks, losing many important brain functions in the process. While exercise and a healthy diet can’t “cure” Alzheimer’s, they can help shore up the brain against cognitive decline that begins after age 45 . Working out, especially between age 25 and 45, boosts the chemicals in the brain that support and prevent degeneration of the hippocampus, an important part of the brain for memory and learning.

6. Alleviate anxiety

Quick Q&A: Which is better at relieving anxiety — a warm bubble bath or a 20-minute jog? You might be surprised at the answer. The warm and fuzzy chemicals that are released during and after exercise can help people with anxiety disorders calm down. Hopping on the track or treadmill for some moderate-to-high intensity aerobic exercise (intervals, anyone?) can reduce anxiety sensitivity  . And we thought intervals were just a good way to burn calories!

7. Boost brainpower

Those buff lab rats might be smarter than we think. Various studies on mice and men have shown that cardiovascular exercise can create new brain cells (aka neurogenesis) and improve overall brain performance  . Ready to apply for a Nobel Prize? Studies suggest that a tough workout increases levels of a brain-derived protein (known as BDNF) in the body, believed to help with decision making, higher thinking, and learning. Smarty (spandex) pants, indeed.

8. Sharpen memory

Get ready to win big at Go Fish. Regular physical activity boosts memory and ability to learn new things. Getting sweaty increases production of cells in hippocampus responsible for memory and learning . For this reason, research has linked children’s brain development with level of physical fitness (take that, recess haters!). But exercise-based brainpower isn’t just for kids. Even if it’s not as fun as a game of Red Rover, working out can boost memory among grown-ups, too. A study showed that running sprints improved vocabulary retention among healthy adults .

9. Help control addiction

The brain releases dopamine, the “reward chemical” in response to any form of pleasure, be that exercise, sex, drugs, alcohol, or food. Unfortunately, some people become addicted to dopamine and dependent on the substances that produce it, like drugs or alcohol (and more rarely, food and sex). On the bright side, exercise can help in addiction recovery . Short exercise sessions can also effectively distract drug or alcohol addicts, making them de-prioritize cravings (at least in the short term)  . Working out when on the wagon has other benefits, too. Alcohol abuse disrupts many body processes, including circadian rhythms. As a result, alcoholics find they can’t fall asleep (or stay asleep) without drinking. Exercise can help reboot the body clock, helping people hit the hay at the right time.

10. Increase relaxation

Ever hit the hay after a long run or weight session at the gym? For some, a moderate workout can be the equivalent of a sleeping pill, even for people with insomnia . Moving around five to six hours before bedtime raises the body’s core temperature. When the body temp drops back to normal a few hours later, it signals the body that it’s time to sleep .

11. Get more done

Feeling uninspired in the cubicle? The solution might be just a short walk or jog away. Research shows that workers who take time for exercise on a regular basis are more productive and have more energy than their more sedentary peers  . While busy schedules can make it tough to squeeze in a gym session in the middle of the day, some experts believe that midday is the ideal time for a workout due to the body’s circadian rhythms.

12. Tap into creativity

Most people end a tough workout with a hot shower, but maybe we should be breaking out the colored pencils instead. A heart-pumping gym session can boost creativity for up to two hours afterwards . Supercharge post-workout inspiration by exercising outdoors and interacting with nature (see benefit #4) . Next time you need a burst of creative thinking, hit the trails for a long walk or run to refresh the body and the brain at the same time.

13. Inspire others

Whether it’s a pick-up game of soccer, a group class at the gym, or just a run with a friend, exercise rarely happens in a bubble. And that’s good news for all of us. Studies show that most people perform better on aerobic tests when paired up with a workout buddy . Pin it to inspiration or good old-fashioned competition, nobody wants to let the other person down. In fact, being part of a team is so powerful that it can actually raise athletes’ tolerances for pain . Even fitness beginners can inspire each other to push harder during a sweat session, so find a workout buddy and get moving! 

Working out can have positive effects far beyond the gym (and beach season). Gaining self-confidence, getting out of a funk, and even thinking smarter are some of the motivations to take time for exercise on a regular basis.

Jordan Spieth puts together incredible finish to win British Open

When things couldn’t have looked worse, Jordan Spieth never looked better.

The young Texan was in the midst of a monumental collapse Sunday in the 146th British Open that was reminiscent of the calamity he produced in the 2016 Masters, when he blew a five-shot lead with nine holes to play. This time, at Royal Birkdale, his three-stroke lead with 18 to play had vanished by the fourth hole, and Spieth looked lost, frustrated and defeated on the ancient land by the Irish Sea.

His struggles continued for eight holes and then his tee shot on the par-4 13th wound up 40 yards to the right of the fairway and disappeared into high, thick grass, forcing him to take a penalty drop. Make that an adventurous, bizarre penalty drop that took 20 minutes and found Spieth on the driving range by the equipment trucks despite a massive sand dune blocking his view of the green.

Somehow, some way, that’s when Spieth turned his fortune around.

From the moment he finally hit his approach to the 13th from 235 yards, Spieth authored the latest chapter in his ever-growing legend. With remarkable brilliance, Spieth started doing Spieth things as he managed to make a miracle bogey on the 13th. He canned a “massive” putt from 7 feet and then summoned a red-number tear by going birdie-eagle-birdie-birdie to win the oldest championship in golf.

With a 1-under-par 69, Spieth, who turns 24 on Thursday, finished at 12 under and three shots clear of playing partner Matt Kuchar (69) to become the Champion Golfer of the Year. And he is now the second-youngest player to win the first three legs of the career grand slam, bested only by Jack Nicklaus.

“Today took as much out of me as any day that I’ve ever played golf,” said Spieth, whose shaky start included four bogeys in his first nine holes. ” … Showed some resiliency and give a lot of credit to my guy (Michael Greller) on the bag for that. As you can imagine, thoughts come in from my last scenario when I was leading a major on Sunday. All of a sudden it creeps into your head. I was so confident and all of a sudden, the wheels have kind of come off everything. And how do we get back on track to salvage this round and just give yourself a chance at the end? It took a bogey to do so.”

Spieth denied Kuchar his first major championship triumph. Paired for the second consecutive round, Kuchar took the lead when Spieth made his bogey on 13 but couldn’t match his foe on the last five holes. Then again, who could have?

“It’s crushing. It hurts. And it’s an excitement and a thrill to have played well, put up a battle, put up a fight,” Kuchar said. “You work so hard to get to this position, to have a chance to make history and win a championship. You don’t get that many opportunities. And to be this close, to taste it with five holes to go, it’s a hard one to sit back and take.

“Jordan is a great champion and certainly played that way in the finishing stretch. It was impressive stuff when a guy does something like that. All you can really do is sit back, tip your cap and say, ‘Well done.’ It was certainly a show that he put on.”

Haotong Li, at 21 the youngest Chinese golfer to play in the Open, closed with four birdies to shoot 63 and finished third, six shots behind Spieth. Rory McIlroy closed with a 67 to tie for fourth with Rafa Cabrera Bello (68), seven shots behind Spieth.

Spieth’s name is now engraved on the shiny, gray Claret Jug, which will join his green jacket and silver U.S. Open trophy he captured in 2015. He now stands on the doorstep of history, just a Wanamaker Trophy away from joining Gene Sarazen, Ben Hogan, Gary Player, Nicklaus and Tiger Woods as the only players to complete the grand slam. His first chance to join the immortal group comes next month in the 99th PGA Championship at Quail Hollow in Charlotte.

“It’s a career goal,” said Spieth, the only player to win 11 PGA Tour titles and three majors before turning 24. “Growing up playing golf, I just wanted to be able to play in major championships and compete with the best in the world, and things have happened very quickly. And it’s good and bad, because a lot comes with it. And a lot more attention versus just being able to kind of go about your own thing. And I never realized how underrated that was. I wanted to be in this position but then, it becomes harder when it doesn’t go your way. And you’re harder on yourself because you expect so much. Therefore, I’m going to thoroughly enjoy this.”

A different, noticeable swagger was about Spieth upon his arrival to this seaside village, along with a combination of poise, experience and confidence that he ultimately was forced to call upon. He’s wiser and more comfortable now wrestling with the high expectations left in the wake of his brilliant 2015 major season, when he won two majors, five titles in all, the FedExCup and was one stroke out of a playoff in the British Open and was runner-up in the PGA Championship.

He had won his last start three weeks ago in the Travelers Championship, where for the first time he won on Tour without putting well. His three-week break included a trip to Cabo, where he hung out with two Michaels – Phelps and Jordan.

After setting up shop in a large rental home with Rickie Fowler, Justin Thomas, Jason Dufner and Zach Johnson, where a lot of gin rummy and snooker was played, Spieth and Greller started drawing up the blueprint to master Birkdale and the vagaries of links golf.

Through three rounds Spieth did what he had to do — he went low when conditions were ripe for scoring — shooting 65s in the first and third rounds. And he survived when conditions were horrendous — a 69 in the second round.

And then he started going sideways in the final round. That’s when Greller got into his ear on the tee box of the seventh hole.

“Michael did a great thing today,” Spieth said. “He said, ‘Do you remember that group you were with in Cabo last week? You’re that caliber of an athlete. But I need you to believe that right now because you’re in a great position in this tournament. This is a new tournament. We’re starting over here.’ …

“And I definitely thought about what he was saying while I was over some of those key 3- to 4-footers that I made on 7, 8, 11 and 12. Those 3-footers were 10-footers to me. And all of a sudden the lid came off. And the 30-footers were 2-footers to me.”

After the bogey on 13, which Greller said was the greatest bogey his boss ever made “by a mile,” Spieth nearly made an ace on 14, made eagle from 40 feet on 15, dropped a 25-footer for birdie on the 16th, then matched Kuchar’s birdie on the 17th from 10 feet.

“He’s hurt a lot since that ’16 Masters,” Greller said. “And I’m sure somewhere in there some doubts had crept in. He just said, ‘You know what? I know how to do this.’ It was just cool to see him with his back against the wall. To see what he did just shows his character and his grit.”

Johnson, the 2015 Open champion, was among many friends waiting for Spieth behind the 18th hole. He, too, was amazed at what Spieth did.

“Words fail me,” Johnson said. “I can’t fathom it. Those are the intangibles, and the things I just don’t understand. I’m not suggesting I can’t do it.

“He just does it all the time.”

Legend NFL Warren Sapp Donates His Brain to Science

Warren Sapp, the Hall of Fame defensive tackle who retired from the NFL in 2008 following 13 seasons with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Oakland Raiders, announced on Tuesday that he will donate his brain to science after his death.

In a letter and video for The Players’ Tribune, Sapp explained that an email from Fred Willis, who eventually left the NFL because of repeated concussions, convinced him to donate his brain to the Concussion Legacy Foundation. The foundation was founded in 2007and is “dedicated to advancing the study, treatment and prevention of the effects of brain trauma in athletes and other at-risk groups.” Sapp said he wanted football to be in a better place when he left than we he got into it and that quotes from NFL owners downplaying the impact of concussions motivated him to take action.

“We play in a macho league and we’re talking about Hall-of-Famers now who are immortalized forever,” Sapp said. “Made busts and everything – legends of the game. There’s no way any of us want to really admit that we can’t remember how to get home or a grocery list that the wife has given us or how to go pick up our kids to the school, or whatever it may be.”

“You try to ‘Alright, I’m gonna get a little more sleep. Maybe it’s something I did last night, maybe something I drank’ or whatever it is,” Sapp continued. “You try to find a reason that it’s not ‘It’s my brain.’ That I’m not deteriorating right before my own eyes. It’s the most frightening feeling, but it’s also a very weakening feeling because you feel like a child. I need help. I need somebody to help me find something that I could’ve found with my eyes closed, in the dead of night, half asleep.”

Sapp also admitted that he “just can’t remember anymore like I used to,” which is why he relies on his phone to remind himself of what he needs to do throughout the day. Football is better and safer than it used to be, he says, but it’s now a matter of making the game safer for everyone involved from the youth to high schoolers to future NFL players.

Sapp isn’t the first NFL player to donate his brain to science and he certainly won’t be the last. Earlier this year, 30 former NFL players – including three Pro-Bowlers – pledged to donate their brains to the Concussion Legacy Foundation. Shortly thereafter, ESPN published a story revealing that Dr. Ann McKee, a Boston University neuropathologist, had found CTE in 47 of the 48 brains she had studied of deceased NFL players. The more studies show the long-term effects of concussions and the more the NFL distances itself from them, the more likely it is that players will do whatever they can to advance the conversation.

Watch Pro Skater Elliot Sloan’s Jaw-Dropping Indy 900 Trick

Looking down from the top of the 75-foot-high Mega Ramp inside the new U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis, professional skateboarder Elliot Sloan checks his helmet, steps onto the front of his board and drops in. Reaching speeds of 45 MPH, he blasts a beautifully rotated Indy 720 over the gap and then an Indy Tail Grab 900 off the 27-foot-high quarter pipe – a trick that’s never been done before, earning Sloan the X Games gold medal in Big Air.

“I tried it in practice and during my third run and missed,” Sloan tells Rolling Stone. “Then I went for it on my fourth run and made it.”

In pure gladiator fashion, Sloan victoriously raises his hands toward a cheering arena and spikes his skateboard onto the Mega Ramp. “I’ve never done that before,” says the fearless flyer, adrenaline still speeding through his hands. “No one has done that before.” This gold medal represents Sloan’s ninth career X Games podium.

“I knew I needed to do a 900 and no one had ever done it with a tail grab,” says Sloan of his strategy to move up from third place. “It’s a super-long wait at the top. So, to finally have that pressure relieved and also be completely stoked on landing my trick – it’s an incredible feeling. Nothing comes close to that in all the shit that I do.”

Sloan’s first social media words after winning gold were, “We did it, Mom,” referencing his mother’s recent victory over cancer as he approached contest season. “I was trying to calm my nerves at the top of the Mega Ramp,” says Sloan. “I was just telling myself to do it for my mom. I knew it would lift her spirit and the whole thing with cancer is about staying positive and that’s so hard to do when you’re the one dealing with it. It’s heavy.”

Sloan’s father died when he was 16 and still living in New York. He was forced to drop out of school and get a job to help support himself and his mother. Already a talented skateboarder, work life began to send Sloan into depression and threaten his dreams of skating professionally. Ultimately, Sloan packed up his car and drove out to San Diego, the hub of vert skating. Soon after, his mother followed and the two reassembled their lives in California in search of Sloan’s future in skateboarding.

Tony Hawk landed the first-ever 900 in a competition at X Games in 1999. “It was something that I had been trying to do for 10 years,” Hawk tells RS. “Congratulations to Elliot on winning X Games Big Air and making Indy 900s look easy along the way.” Seeing Hawk’s first 900 on television inspired Sloan to take up vert skating and ultimately the seek out the Mega Ramp. The two skateboarders are now teammates – Sloan rides for Hawk’s company Birdhouse Skateboards.

Last year, Thrasher released Sloan’s magnum opus to date, “Metal and Mayhem” – a skateboarding film that features Sloan skating his backyard vert ramp and Bob Burnquist’s Mega Ramp, as well as performing the sinister soundtrack for the film. The video also features cameos by Bones Brigaders Steve Caballero and Tony Hawk. As Thrasher comments: “From the moment you see him [Sloan] 360 the Mega Ramp while holding a guitar, you’ll know Sloan is on some different shit.”

So what motivates someone to aspire to be a maniacal Mega Ramp rider? “In skateboarding, it’s the closest you can get to actually flying,” says Sloan. “That sensation of going super fast and blasting airs – it’s gnarly.” Indeed it is gnarly. In 2015, Sloan missed an attempt at a 900 and nearly broke his neck. Despite the shooting pain from two compressed discs, Sloan pressed through the competition and scored three medals at X Games Austin 2015, including a gold in Vert Best Trick.

As this year’s competition came to a close, Rolling Stone asked Sloan how he celebrated his victory. “Well shit, it was crazy,” says Sloan. “First, I did like 10 different interviews, took my pads off and let it all sink in. Then I shot-gunned a few beers and it was party time.”