Forget the pay rise, all you need is a good workout! Find out how exercise makes you happier than money, why boys need structured physical activity, the brain-boosting power of fitness, and what’s killing 11 million people each year. This latest roundup of health and fitness research has it all.

Exercise makes you happier than money

Yes, a pay rise might make you feel good, but a new study shows that exercise can make you feel even better! A team of Yale and Oxford researchers collected data from 1.2 million Americans, analysing how often they experienced stress, depression or emotional problems in relation to their income and level of physical activity. Scientists discovered those who don’t regularly exercise felt bad for an average of 53 days a year – 18 more days than those who are physically active. They also found those who did exercise felt just as good as inactive individuals who earned $25,000 more a year. The scientists considered all forms of physical activity – everything from gardening and housework to weightlifting and running – but found the greatest mental health benefits come from team activities, cycling and aerobic gym sessions.

Learn more about the ideal amount of exercise for happiness and mental wellbeing.

Boys who do structured exercise less likely to be depressed

A new study suggests that getting your sons involved in structured exercise could be a smart move when it comes to easing the risk of depression. The Washington University study of boys aged 9 to 11 found those involved in sports had a larger hippocampus, which is the part of the brain that controls depression, memory and stress. The relationship was most apparent in boys involved in structured team sports. While girls showed some link between sports involvement and hippocampal volume, unlike boys, there was no link to depression. It’s worth noting that the results are correlational, not causational – which raises the question, does getting involved in structured sports increase the size the hippocampus and decrease depression risk? Or are boys with a smaller hippocampus and a predisposition for depression less likely to engage in sport?

Learn more about how boys who do exercise are less likely to be depressed.

Keen to get your child moving? Marvel and Les Mills have recently teamed up to create a short structured workout designed specifically for 8-12 year olds. Check out the Move Like An Avenger workout.

Unhealthy diets riskier than smoking

New research published in The Lancet has highlighted the alarming link between poor diets and death. In 2017 alone, there were 11 million deaths linked to poor diet – significantly more than the number of deaths associated with smoking. The findings come from a comparative risk assessment, where researchers analysed the diets of people in 195 countries and estimated the proportion of disease-specific burden attributable to each dietary risk factor. Researchers also considered the number of deaths linked to risk factors such as smoking. Countries such as Israel, France, Spain and Japan were among those with the lowest rates of diet-related disease. The U.S ranked 43rd, and China ranked 140th. Study author Ashkan Afshin says that, generally, lower numbers of diet-related deaths were seen in countries with diets similar to the Mediterranean diet, which has higher intake of fruits, vegetables, nuts and healthy oils.

Learn more about the health risks of a poor diet here.

How much will exercise boost your brain power in the long-term?

We know that different types, amounts, and intensities of physical activity can improve short-term brain function. Now a new study examining the short- and long-term cognitive effects of exercise has highlighted that the brain-boosting benefits observed after just one workout can indicate the extent of long-term changes. The study involved participants doing brain scans and working memory tests before and after single sessions of light and moderate intensity exercise, and at the end of a 12-week training program. The tests showed that those who saw the biggest improvements in cognition and functional brain connectivity after single sessions of moderate intensity physical activity also showed the biggest long-term gains.

You can learn more about the brain-boosting power of exercise here.

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