Hidden Benefits of 8 Healthy Habits
More Hidden Health PerksHealthy habit: Taking yoga classes Hidden perk: Less risk for broken bones
You downward dog to keep stress levels in check, but those asanas serve another purpose: improving your balance. This may not be something you worry about now, but one in three adults 65 and older takes a spill every year, according to the CDC, and falls are the leading cause of accidental death among older adults. "Balance and flexibility decline with age," says yoga instructor Jasmine Chehrazi, a faculty member in the exercise science department at George Washington University. "The earlier you learn to evenly distribute your weight through yoga, the sooner it will become a habit that keeps you safe later in life." A study in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research found that women ages 23 to 35 who practiced yoga three times a week greatly improved their balance as well as their leg strength and muscle control.
Yogurt is a true superfood: low in fat and calories yet high in hunger-fighting protein, bone-building calcium, and stomach-soothing probiotics. Turns out, probiotics also fight the sniffles. A recent review of 10 studies suggests that these good bacteria (look for "live and active cultures" on yogurt-container labels) can reduce your chance of getting colds by 12 percent. But not all yogurts are created equal. "A six-ounce container that's premixed with fruit can have close to seven teaspoons of sugar," says Susan Dopart, RD, the author of A Recipe for Life by the Doctor's Dietitian. Stick with the low-fat plain Greek kind (it's higher in calcium and probiotics), topped with fresh fruit and a drizzle of honey, and aim to have one cup a day.Healthy habit: A great sex life Hidden perk: Headache relief
Forget the not-tonight-honey excuse. Sex doesn't only reduce stress, zap calories, promote closeness, and rock your world, but it can also help your head. In a study at the Headache Clinic at Southern Illinois University, half of the female migraine sufferers reported some relief after sex. "The brain process related to orgasm may override the headache," says the study's lead author, James R. Couch, MD, PhD. Endorphins released during orgasm may also speed pain relief. As with most migraine treatments, the key is to act fast. The majority of sufferers found relief if they had sex shortly after their headache began. No partner in the picture? Go the self-service route.Healthy habit: Getting massages Hidden perk: A stronger immune system
You don't need experts to tell you a rubdown feels great, soothes sore muscles, and is blissfully relaxing. But it did take a study, published in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, to discover that certain types of massage may strengthen your immune system. "Swedish massage seems to increase production of lymphocytes, cells that help defend against harmful substances and diseases," says lead researcher Mark Hyman Rapaport, MD. In the study, 45 minutes of this type of kneading did the trick. Follow-up research suggests that more massage is better: Weekly sessions were even more beneficial than a single massage. So go ahead and book a spa treatment or two. You deserve it for taking such good care of yourself!
Originally published in FITNESS magazine, November/December 2012.
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