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The Simple Treatment That Beats Antidepressants

Two-thirds of people with major depression were no longer depressed after this treatment.

A brisk walk three times a week can actually beat antidepressant medication in treating major depression, research finds.

The results come from a study on three groups of elderly people with major depressive disorder.

One group were given the exercise, another given antidepressant medication and the third both.

The results showed that all three groups improved the same amount.

Professor James Blumenthal, the study’s first author, said:

“One of the conclusions we can draw from this is that exercise may be just as effective as medication and may be a better alternative for certain patients.”

The results showed that after exercise almost two-thirds of participants were no longer depressed after 16 weeks.

One of the problems with exercise is that it may take a little longer to take effect.

Professor Blumenthal said:

“While we don’t know why exercise confers such a benefit, this study shows that exercise should be considered as a credible form of treatment for these patients.
Almost one-third of depressed patients in general do not respond to medications, and for others, the medications can cause unwanted side effects.
Exercise should be considered a viable option.”

Exercise could be particularly beneficial because people are taking an active role, rather than passively taking a pill, Professor Blumenthal said:

“Simply taking a pill is very passive.
Patients who exercised may have felt a greater sense of mastery over their condition and gained a greater sense of accomplishment.
They felt more self-confident and had better self-esteem because they were able to do it themselves, and attributed their improvement to their ability to exercise.
These findings could change the way some depressed patients are treated, especially those who are not interested in taking anti-depressants.
While these medications have been proven to be effective, many people want to avoid the side effects or are looking for a more ‘natural’ way of feeling better.”

The antidepressant tested in the study was sertraline, which is marketed as Zoloft.

The study was published in the journal Archives of Internal Medicine (Blumenthal et al., 1999).

 source: PsyBlog


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Here’s How to Make Yourself Love Exercise

It’s not just you: Many people are turned off by the thought of exercise because they think it has to be intense or time-consuming. But the findings of a new study published in the journal BMC Public Health suggests that people could learn to enjoy being active simply by tweaking those beliefs and expectations.

So says the study’s lead author Michelle Segar, director of the University of Michigan’s Sport, Health, and Activity Research and Policy Center, who’s spent years researching what motivates people to get and stay physically fit. (She’s also author of  No Sweat: How the Simple Science of Motivation Can Bring You a Lifetime of Fitness.) Too often, she says, people begin exercise programs to lose weight, and quit when they don’t shed pounds right away.

In her new study, she and her colleagues asked 40 women about what really makes them feel happy and successful. Then they analyzed how their views about working out either fostered or undermined those feelings. The diverse group of women were all between ages 22 and 49.

All of the women—whether they were regular exercisers or not—turned out to want the same things out of life: to have meaningful connections with others, to feel relaxed and free of pressure during their leisure time and to accomplish the goals they’d set for themselves, whether in their personal lives, their careers or simply their daily to-do lists.

The big difference, the researchers found, was that women who were inactive viewed exercise as counterproductive to those things. In order for exercise to be valid, they thought, it had to be seriously heart-pumping and sweat-inducing—the complete opposite of the “relaxing” feeling they wanted from their free time.

They also felt that following an exercise program took up too much time and put too much pressure on them, and that it was too difficult to commit to a schedule and meet expectations, leaving them feeling like failures.

But women in the study who were regularly active didn’t share these views. For them, exercise went hand-in-hand with their desires for social connectivity, relaxing leisure time and feeling accomplished.

That shift in mindset has to happen for women who aren’t currently active, says Segar. “These women feel alienated by exercise, or feel that they’ve failed when they tried it in the past,” she says. “They have a very narrow definition of what exercise should look like.”

Segar says that definition comes from decades of messaging from fitness companies and older scientific research that suggesting that high-intensity activity is the only way for exercise to be worthwhile. “That’s no longer true,” she says. “The new recommendations for physical activity really open the door for people to pretty much do anything that works for them.”

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services suggests that for “substantial health benefits,” adults should get 150 minutes a week of moderate-intensity physical activity, such as brisk walking. It’s true that additional benefits can be gained from more (or more intense) exercise, but Segar says this is a good starting point for many Americans who currently lead sedentary lives.

Instead of thinking about exercise as an alternative to enjoying free time or socializing with friends, she recommends framing it as a way to make those things happen. “Women need to give themselves permission to use physical activity as a way to relax—to get together with friends or loved ones and take a leisurely stroll, simply because being active and outdoors boosts their mood and makes them feel good.”

While walking is an easy way to squeeze in more movement throughout the day, she also encourages people to get creative. “If you liked biking as a kid, rent a bike and see if it still feels good,” she says. “Play tag with your kids, take a dance class or even just climb the stairs a few extra times while you’re doing chores around the house.”Most importantly, Segar says, people need to know that any physical activity is better than no physical activity. “You don’t have to do 30 minutes at a time, you don’t have to sweat and you don’t have to hate whatever it is you’re doing,” she says. “You just have to choose to move when you see opportunities.”

 

Amanda MacMillan       May 30, 2017
source: TIME Health


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Putting Off The Important Things? It’s Not For The Reasons You Think

Never put off till tomorrow what you can do now,
especially if you’re holding back in the hope of doing it properly

All you really need to succeed, according to the writer-philosopher Robert Pirsig, who died last month, is gumption. “Gumption is the psychic gasoline that keeps the whole thing going,” he writes, in a rare part of Zen And The Art Of Motorcycle Maintenance that’s actually about motorcycle maintenance. (Well, and the whole of human existence, too – but that’s always the case with Pirsig.) “If you haven’t got any, there’s no way the motorcycle can possibly be fixed. But if you have got it and know how to keep it, there’s absolutely no way in the world that motorcycle can keep from getting fixed.” The biggest dangers, accordingly, are what he calls “gumption traps”: seemingly minor external events, or ways of thinking, that play a disproportionate role in depleting it. There are “maybe millions” of these, he writes. But there’s one I fall into far more often than others. You might call it the Importance Trap.

This is hardly a brand new insight – but then, as Pirsig liked to point out, looking for new insights can be a fool’s errand; what you want are the ones that make a difference. The Importance Trap refers to the way that, the more an activity really matters to you, the more you start to believe you need focus, energy and long stretches of uninterrupted time in which to do it – things that, you tell yourself, you currently lack. And so the less likely you are to do it. Unimportant stuff gets done; important stuff doesn’t.

Take reading. “If you’re only going to open a book on the off-chance you have several hours to kill in a comfy chair with a glass of scotch,” wrote Kevin Nguyen in GQ recently, “it’s only going to happen when you have several hours to kill in a comfy chair with a glass of scotch.” That’s classic Importance Trap thinking. We tend to think of procrastination as being motivated by more melodramatic emotions: fear of failure, the terror of being judged, etc. Yet sometimes the mere desire to do something properly is the reason you’re not doing it.

A close cousin of the Importance Trap – for me, anyway – is the Consistency Trap: the assumption that something’s not worth doing until your life’s arranged to do it regularly. No point going on a protest march, or rekindling a neglected friendship, unless you can turn yourself into the kind of person who does that all the time. This is absurd, firstly because such things are worth doing in themselves, and second because you definitely won’t become the kind of person who does them if you never even do them once.

The irony, I’ve found, is that the only way to obtain the things you imagine are the preconditions for acting – high energy, a sense of concentration – is to start acting. (“Motivation follows action”, as the saying goes.) So when you catch yourself telling yourself you’ll do something later, once you’re refreshed and ready, take it as a prod to do it now. You might think you need to wait for more gumption – but in fact that very thought is a hole in your fuel tank, through which the gumption’s leaking away.

oliver.burkeman@theguardian.com     @oliverburkeman      Friday 19 May 2017


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How To Get Happier Now With Almost No Effort

You can lift your spirits without a gym membership, wearing Lycra or even leaving the house.

For sedentary people, getting out of the chair is enough to improve happiness, new research finds.

It turns out that very light activity is surprisingly effective in raising people’s level of well-being.

Mr Gregory Panza, the study’s first author, said:

“…simply going from doing no physical activity to performing some physical activity can improve their subjective well-being.
What is even more promising for the physically inactive person is that they do not need to exercise vigorously to see these improvements.
Instead, our results indicate you will get the best ‘bang for your buck’ with light or moderate intensity physical activity.”

Light physical activity is equivalent to a leisurely walk.

The kind of walk that doesn’t make you sweat, breathe faster or even change your heart rate.

Moderate activity is walking fast enough to nudge up your vital signs for around 15 minutes.

It’s amazing how little
you have to do
to make yourself happier right now.

Vigorous exercise is equivalent to going for a jog.

The study looked at 419 healthy, middle-aged adults.

The biggest gains in happiness were seen among those who were the most sedentary and then did some light or moderate physical activity.

People who sat around a lot had the most to gain.

Mr Panza said:

“The ‘more is better’ mindset may not be true when it comes to physical activity intensity and subjective well-being.
In fact, an ‘anything is better’ attitude may be more appropriate if your goal is a higher level of subjective well-being.”
People doing vigorous activity did not see increases in their happiness.
This is the reverse of a recent study that found vigorous activity can actually decrease mental well-being.
Dr Beth Taylor, a study author, said:
“Recent studies had suggested a slightly unsettling link between vigorous activity and subjective well-being.

We did not find this in the current study, which is reassuring to individuals who enjoy vigorous activity and may be worried about negative effects.”

The study was published in the Journal of Health Psychology (Panza et al., 2017).

source: PsyBlog


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8 Ways to Stay Energized All Day

It’s no wonder so many of us struggle with energy issues. We go, go, go from morning to night, running on little but grit and caffeine. But it doesn’t have to be that way. “The reality is, you can get a real boost by making a few simple changes,” says Dr. Nada Milosavljevic, director of the integrative health program at Massachusetts General Hospital. That’s why we put together this complete guide to all-day energy: It’s packed with proven strategies that will keep you powered up as you plow through your to-do list. You’ll also learn about surprising energy drains (social media, we’re looking at you)—and how to keep them from stealing your mojo.

Keep allergies under control

People with hay fever often feel sluggish. “You spend so much time trying to breathe, you don’t have energy for anything else,” says New Jersey-based allergist Dr. Neeta Ogden, spokesperson for the American College of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology. Your congestion might also keep you awake at night: French researchers found that more than 40 percent of seasonal-allergy sufferers reported they weren’t able to get a good night’s sleep when their symptoms flared.

Studies have shown that over-the-counter nasal steroid sprays (like Nasacort and Flonase) effectively relieve congestion and improve quality of life—including fatigue and sleep issues—in people with seasonal allergies. Ogden suggests pairing a spray with a daily dose of an OTC nonsedating antihistamine (such as Claritin or Allegra); the drug will block the action of histamine, the compound that triggers pesky nasal symptoms. For best results, begin treatment a couple of weeks before sniffle season starts.

Get enough (quality) sleep

It’s estimated that up to 26 percent of all adults in the U.S. have sleep apnea, a disorder that involves shallow breathing or pauses in breathing while you sleep. If you’re among them, you may often feel like you’re in a “brain fog,” even if you’re clocking seven hours of shut-eye a night. If your primary care physician suspects sleep apnea, she can refer you to a sleep center. Most cases can be diagnosed with an at-home test, says Dr. Raj Dasgupta, professor of sleep medicine at the University of Southern California and spokesperson for the American Academy of Sleep Medicine. Mild cases can often be treated with lifestyle modifications, such as losing weight and avoiding alcohol before bed. Moderate or severe cases may require sleeping with a continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machine, which supplies a steady stream of air to keep your airways open.

Exercise

A sweat session is great for upping your oomph, even when you feel like you’re out of juice. “When you exercise, you release hormones like adrenaline. This hormone actually tells our bodies to ignore feelings of pain and fatigue while enhancing blood flow to large muscles,” says Sabrena Jo, senior exercise scientist at the American Council on Exercise. As a result, a workout can leave you with more energy than you had beforehand—an effect that can last several hours.

And it doesn’t take much. One study looked at healthy, sedentary people who began exercising three days a week for just 20 minutes a day, at either a moderate or a low intensity. By the end of six weeks, their energy levels were 20 percent higher than those of a control group of nonexercisers.
Remember: The idea is to leave the gym energized, not exhausted. “If you feel beaten down by the time you step off the treadmill, it’s a sign you need to scale back,” says Jo.

 

Get adequate vitamin D

Research suggests this key vitamin plays a role in keeping us charged up. Experts suspect D helps regulate insulin secretion and metabolism, both of which affect energy levels. The nutrient has also been linked to better moods (not to mention a slew of other health benefits). If you find yourself constantly dragging, particularly in the winter, it might be worth asking your doc to check your D levels. Since it can be tough to get an adequate amount from food (sources include fatty fish, eggs, and fortified milk), she may recommend a supplement.

Purge your Facebook friends

There are two reasons social media can be an energy suck, says Dr. Brian Primack, director of the Center for Research on Media, Technology and Health at the University of Pittsburgh. “On one hand, you look at everyone’s curated photos and get depressed because your life doesn’t look so perfect,” he explains. “But on the other hand, anything that’s negative also gets magnified. Neither extreme is good.” Indeed, one of his studies found a link between the amount of time spent on social media and the likelihood of depression.

Not ready to cut the Facebook cord? Try paring your “friends” down to your actual friends. “When you don’t know someone, you’re more likely to have a miscommunication or be upset by something in their feed,” says Primack. “But using social media to connect with old friends can have the opposite effect—it’s energizing.”

Eat to fuel

To improve your everyday energy, try this tweak: Substitute plant protein for animal protein whenever possible, suggests Samantha Heller, a registered dietitian at the NYU School of Medicine. Plants feed the “good” bacteria in your gut, she explains, which help boost your immunity to keep you healthy. They may also boost overall mood. A 2015 study found that people who followed a plant-based eating program for 18 weeks saw an increase in their productivity. Here, Heller describes a sample menu for an ideal day.

Breakfast: A Berry smoothie. Blend 1/2 cup berries with a scoop of avocado and 3/4 cup soy milk. The shake is high in both fiber and protein to stabilize your blood sugar until lunch.

Lunch: Lentil soup and kale salad. Lentils and kale are a mighty nutritional combo, offering protein, fiber, iron, potassium, zinc, folate, and more.

P.M. snack: Fruit and nuts. This duo serves up a nice balance of carbohydrates, protein, and fat to help you power through the rest of the afternoon.

Dinner: Vegetarian tacos. Wrap beans with shredded lettuce and cheese, chopped tomato, avocado, and salsa in a corn tortilla for a light dinner that won’t mess with your sleep.

Try some fast pick-me-ups

Take a mini break. Stand up and stretch, or watch a funny video. University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign researchers found that people who took two short breaks during a repetitive 50-minute task performed better than those who worked straight through.

Go for a quick walk. A landmark study published in Journal of Personality and Social Psychology revealed that a brisk 10-minute walk can have a revitalizing effect, enhancing energy for at least two hours.

Chew a stick of gum. A 2015 U.K. study found that this trick raised alertness and improved concentration, possibly because chewing increases blood flow.

Don’t ignore fatigue

Sometimes feeling spent isn’t a problem that can be solved with a nap. Below are a few possible medical explanations for flagging energy.

Anemia. This condition, common in women, means you don’t have enough healthy red blood cells to carry adequate oxygen to your tissues. If blood tests reveal you’re anemic, you may need to take an iron supplement.

Celiac disease. Fatigue is one of the symptoms of this serious condition, in which an autoimmune reaction to gluten damages the intestines. If blood tests suggest celiac, you’ll need an intestinal biopsy to diagnose it. The only proven therapy is a gluten-free diet.
Hypothyroidism. “If your body isn’t producing enough thyroid hormone, you’re going to feel like you’re running low on fuel all the time,” says Milosavljevic. This disorder can be treated with synthetic hormones.

Heart disease. A 2003 study published in Circulation found that 70 percent of women who’d suffered heart attacks had reported feeling unusual fatigue for up to a month beforehand. “Patients often say that they feel tired in their chest,” says Dr. Dana Simpler, an internist at Mercy Medical Center in Baltimore. After a full workup, your doc can prescribe a treatment plan.

This article originally appeared on Health.com
Hallie Levine / Health.com       May 03, 2017     TIME Health
source: time.com


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Taking The Stairs May Boost Energy More Than Drinking A Soda

For young women running on little sleep, 10 minutes of stair walking increased energy more than the amount of caffeine in a soda or half a cup of coffee, according to a small study.

This energy boost is relatively short, and overtired workers may need to do a few bouts of exercise throughout the day to keep up energy long term, the researchers write in the journal Physiology and Behavior.

“There are many people who are sleep deprived and report low energy. We focused on women because they more frequently report low energy compared to men,” said study coauthor Patrick O’Connor, a professor of kinesiology at the University of Georgia in Athens.

To compare the effects of caffeine and exercise on energy level, the study team recruited 18 female college students with average caffeine intake and physical activity levels.

The women in the study were also relatively sleep-deprived, with all reporting sleeping 6.5 hours or less per night.

Before starting the experiment, the women answered questions assessing their feelings of energy or vigor and their motivation levels.

The women also completed cognitive tests measuring their attention, short-term memory and reaction times.

Participants then received either a flour-filled placebo pill, a caffeine pill containing 50 mg of caffeine (about equivalent to a soda or half a cup of coffee), or completed a 10-minute stair-walking exercise.

After receiving a pill or doing the exercise, the women completed the cognitive tests and questionnaires two more times, 30 minutes and 50 minutes later. The women also rated their feelings of energy a third time, about an hour and 15 minutes after the experiment.

The experiment was repeated two more times over three days, to ensure that each woman experienced each experimental condition.

The researchers found that women who did 10 minutes of stair-walking reported significantly higher levels of energy than women who took the caffeine equivalent of a can of soda.

This effect lessened over time, though, and the caffeine and exercise groups had similar energy levels an hour after the experiment.

The interventions did not significantly affect attention, memory, or reaction time.

The effect of exercise in this study was fairly short-lived, O’Connor noted, but other studies suggest that multiple short bouts of exercise spread throughout the workday can offer more long-lasting energy, he said.

A person’s level of fitness may influence what intensity exercise may be helpful for them, said Namrita Kumar, a researcher who studies exercise and attention at the Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta.

A person with low fitness may be fatigued by intense exercise, which could work against the positive effects they might get from it, noted Kumar, who was not involved in the study.

“For individuals who cannot have or prefer to abstain from caffeine, physical activity throughout the day is sufficient and recommended,” Kumar said by email.

Everyday ways to boost exercise and energy include, “Take the stairs versus the elevator, park in a further parking spot to increase your walking distance, walk or cycle to work or school instead of driving, and take walking breaks,” Kumar said.

“For sleep deprived office workers, especially during inclement weather, taking a 10-minute walk up the stairs can help office workers feel more energetic,” O’Connor said. “Take a break from sitting in your chair and walk up the stairs for a temporary boost in feelings of energy.”

SOURCE: bit.ly/2pJKxsV     Physiology and Behavior, online March 14, 2017.
By Madeline Kennedy       Thu Apr 27, 2017      Reuters Health


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Why Trying a Team Sport Will Make You Healthier and Happier

Three women tell us how joining a team keeps them motivated, wards off boredom and even comes with serious health benefits.

Playing sports isn’t a new trend when it comes to fun ways to get fit, but talk to anyone who participates in activities from baseball to water polo and she’ll likely sing its praises. You’re sure to hear about the merits of group activity: the camaraderie, increased motivation to get out there and work out, and the unique way that having people to train with lessens boredom on the field (trail, ice, swimming pool). But what you might not know is that there are plenty of health benefits you’ll reap just from getting your sweat on with your teammates. See how these three women rock their group workouts.

House-League Soccer

Maria Topalovic found her soccer groove at age nine, and she hasn’t stopped playing since. “I always wanted to play because my dad loved soccer,” says the Hamilton-based team-sport aficionado. Although she enjoyed a variety of athletic pursuits while growing up—including dance, figure skating and gymnastics—soccer was the one that stuck. “It was the only sport or activity I never wanted to quit and never wanted to miss.”
Now 32, Maria has been playing with a house-league team, the BilaBallerz, for about a decade. Astonishingly, she’s competed with some of her teammates since childhood, on one team or another. “It’s great to share the passion for soccer with some of the same women each season and to be able to support each other in our own fitness goals.”

Why soccer?

“I love the game! I love the cardio, too—after a game, I’m exhausted. I feel like the past hour and a half has been worth the activity, and I know I’ve had a good workout. I love the challenge of the game because anything can happen: You can meet a more difficult opponent, set up a beautiful pass, get an amazing goal, save tough shots, have the stress and excitement of shoot-outs and, most of all, have fun with a bunch of friends.”

Dragon-Boat Racing

The way Faye Visser saw it, “I could sit at home and feel sorry for myself or I could get out and remember there is life after breast cancer.” It was 2005. Faye had been diagnosed in February, had surgery in March and, by July, she’d joined Women Alike Abreast a River, a New Glasgow, N.S., dragon-boat racing team comprising cancer survivors and women in cancer treatment.

The team was “like a lifeline for me,” says Faye, whose strength and confidence grew during weekly practices and seasonal competitions. “As a person who was scared of the water, to be paddling a boat with 20 other ladies was quite an accomplishment.”
The team-training approach makes it possible to get through intense workouts you might give up on, says Faye. “Our coach trains us like we would never do ourselves. We are pushed to paddle until it hurts, but we laugh and think, We’re building muscles and having fun at the same time. And when we
come off the water, it’s a great high.”

Why dragon-boat racing?

“Dragon boating is all about exercising both the body and mind. Out on the water, all your worries disappear—[you have to] stay focused on what you’re doing. It empowers us to be the best we can.”

Road Cycling

Jennifer Northrup never pictured herself cycling 100 kilometres in a day. But thanks to her cycling team, the Vancouverite is training to do just that, with a handful of “century rides” planned for this summer. “This year, I’m on a team for the Ride to Conquer Cancer [a two-day 250-kilometre road-cycling challenge] and I plan on doing the Rapha 100 [a 100-kilometre road- cycling event] with the ladies of Tight Bike Cycle Club,” she says.

Never an avid cyclist, Jennifer discovered the sport last year when her fitness club launched a women’s road-cycling team. Road cycling has a steep learning curve, with its specialized gear, road etiquette and safety rules, not to mention the physical challenges, but for Jennifer, being part of a team was key to hurdling the beginner hump. “I was hooked after our first ride,” she says. “There was something about being among this group of women. Some have been riding for years, but most were just as intimidated and new to the sport as I was. The ladies who led the rides were always supportive and encouraging as we learned how to clip into the bike pedals, how to shift gears and the dos and don’ts of sharing the road with cars. I don’t think I would have stayed on a bike if I didn’t have this group expecting me every week.”
For Jennifer, team training and racing go hand in hand. “I don’t think I’ve signed up for one race that didn’t involve a friend or a group I would be participating with. It’s social, fun and a time to connect with others. Team accountability and camaraderie are huge motivating factors for me.”

Why long-distance cycling?

“I love a new challenge and working toward a big ride or event. Having a goal in mind keeps training fun and motivating. I work for the BC Cancer Foundation, so the Ride to Conquer Cancer is near and dear to my heart on both a personal and a professional level.”

Group Benefits

There really is strength in numbers. Here’s why working out with a team is more effective than exercising solo and how to get the benefits (even if you’re not a joiner!).

The Perks

Group-fitness participants exercise more frequently, are more likely to stick with their workout plans and enjoy a greater surge in feel-good endorphins than those who work out by themselves. And that endorphin rush is key: It improves pain tolerance and encourages a sense of social bonding, which boosts your cooperativeness and generosity.

Choosing A Sport

There are two things to keep in mind here: your interests and maximizing convenience. You want a location that’s easy to get to from your home or workplace. Registered classes may have a slight edge in terms of social benefits (you’ll see the same workout buddies each week), but drop-ins are great if you’ve got a hectic schedule or want to sample different workouts until you find the one that best fits you.

An Alternative Approach

If you don’t want to, or can’t, join a team, classes are a great alternative. Pam Cox, manager of health and fitness programs at the University of Calgary’s Active Living facility, says an instructor-led group setting is appropriate for all fitness levels. And even experienced athletes will appreciate the cross training. An avid runner, for example, may be at a loss coordinating a weight-training routine.

MAR 15, 2017     BY: YUKI HAYASHI