Do Smart People Have Smart Dogs?
Who wouldn’t mind an easy way to increase your health and fitness levels, reduce stress, AND improve your brain? Hint: the answer involves a lick, leash, and lots o’ love. Yup, be a dog owner.
Did you know that dog owners are likely to have lower blood pressure, more active social lives, fewer heart attacks, and totally increased guilt levels when you don’t walk them. I made up that last “benefit.” All the other results (and more) are supported by science.Dog owners are likely to have lower blood pressure, more active social lives, fewer heart… Click To Tweet
As our long time readers know, I am a two dog person (see My Naughty Dog Story, though it may not be the highlight of dog ownership come to think of it….) Just added two kittens to the household as well, for balance’s sake. I am balancing my dogs’ perception that I am the most exciting, beloved, wonderful human ever to grace the planet with the cats’ attitude that I exist to adjust their crowns. Keeps me confidently humble.
Prized Pooch and a Prize for Your Pooch
By the way, stick around to the end of this post because one of you is going to win a prize for your pooch. More on that in a minute or about 7 minutes in dog years.Want to win a prize for your pooch? Enter our giveaway #mysmartdog @ProPlan #ad @PurinaPro Click To Tweet
Another thing long time readers of our blog probably noticed is that I am totally jazzed about the ways that exercise confers to humans better memory, cognition, and brain volume. What??!! You missed those posts? Get smarter right here and now by taking a gander at the following (right after you finish this post).
It’s true that people who own dogs tend to be more active. Makes sense since we tend to walk our dogs and play with them. Did you know that dogs also enhance our mental wellbeing? Canine fit fact – dogs improve our mood, decrease depression, and increase happiness.
Our Dogs Make Us Smarter; Can We Make Our Dogs Smarter?
But let’s turn that around for a moment. Can we help make our dogs smarter and happier? I know, I know. You already own the SMARTEST, BEST, HAPPIEST dog in the world. Except you don’t, because I do. Wanna see pictures of my smart dogs?
Back to the matter at
hand paw — unless you’ve been out walking your dog in the wilderness for a decade where no wifi exists, you know that what we eat and what we do impacts our mental and physical health. Did you know that the same is true for dogs? Scientists at Nestle Purina have been studying aging in pets for more than a decade and discovered that nutrition can positively impact a dog’s cognitive health. Who knew? I had not. Based on their research results, Purina Pro Plan did two things:
Well actually Purina and Dognition did three things, as they also sponsored this post. Bark alert! Full disclosure that I partnered with Dognition and Purina to bring you this info. Of course I said yes, because what dog lover doesn’t want to combine food and fun for a smarter, healthier pooch?
Anyway, as part of the partnership, dog owners who purchase Purina Pro Plan BRIGHT MIND Adult or Adult 7+ dry dog food at select pet specialty retailers can receive a FREE Dognition Assessment code, a $19 value, with proof of purchase. Find out more here: Dognition/ BRIGHTMIND OOooorr, as I mentioned earlier, you might WIN that code free. Keep reading.
Canine Fun Fact
Let’s end this dog tale with a tail wag after another Canine Fun Fact: If like Kila, your dog ever did something naughty, you might get “that look” that seems to say “Oops, sorry, I am so regretful.” Except dogs don’t live in regret. That sad face with head down and ears back?? — your dog is playing you. A study found that owners who think their dogs feel guilty don’t scold them as much.
Told you dogs were smart. Now go play, instead of getting played. Oh, and learn enough to stay ahead of your dog by checking out this infographic and entering our giveaway. So barkalicious!
Comment Disclosure: Comments submitted may be displayed on other websites owned by the sponsoring brand.
GIVEAWAY! If you want to win free access to Dognition (believe me, you do want to dig around in this site!) then enter a comment below about an activity your dog loves. If you don’t own a dog, why not? I’ll be selecting the winner on or before July 30, 2016.
This is a sponsored conversation written by me on behalf of Purina Pro BRIGHT MIND. The opinions and text are all mine.
Let’s walk through the sometimes confusing realities of killing off kilocalories. Once we appreciate the role carbohydrates and fat both serve in providing fuel, then we can understand how to select the “best” workout programs.
But first, when speaking of “the best” programs, we have to mention our recently created “Ultimate Abs Workout Collection for Women Over 50.” (Go for it — click that link!) Even if you’re carrying extra ell-bees around the middle, you can still achieve a strong core. Why not feel more confident, capable, and comfortable in your body as you burn fat and gain amazo abs? Read more here as well: Get Ultimate Abs (Better Yet, A Strong Core)
And, we’re back …. Stick with us to the end where you’ll get 4 fat burning programs to try.
First, the goal is to have a caloric deficit to lose any weight. That deficit comes from the age old energy balance equation: take in fewer calories than we put out (eat less); put out more calories than we take in (move more). The entire weight loss picture is far more complex, affected by a myriad of other factors. For more on losing weight and fat, check out To Burn Fat, Do I Go Faster or Slower? Professional alert warning system activated — it’s not just about cals in and out, though you do have to start there! (Then continue with this post on another surprising factor that affects weight: Is Stress Making You Fat? )
Second, is that we break down carbohydrates 40 times faster than fat, with carbs supplying most of the fuel (energy) to power our exercise. Distinguish between absolute and relative numbers when thinking of fat loss. When you exercise with some intensity, you use a higher percentage of carbohydrates compared to fat as the fuel source. However, the highest total of burned calories is what you are going for. For that, you need to suck it up and add some effort.
Higher intensity exercise burns more calories; however, a long, slow approach is better than what most of the adult population is doing — uh, as in better than not much or nuffink! But a workout with some oomph to it at a higher pace will use more total energy (calories) than the lower intensity plan. Absolutely!
Third, thanks to international fitness expert, professor, and colleague of ours, Dr. Len Kravitz you get top level practical tips. He shared with us the exciting, proven, no-magic-required realm of the four best training programs to maximize calorie burning and become lower fat! He recommends we try all 4 methods.
High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT)
Select a cardio activity you enjoy, such as cycling, running, walking, using a row machine. Go as hard as you can for about 30 seconds. Then recover at a self-selected, variable pace for about 3- 4 minutes. Complete 4-8 rounds for a total workout time of about 30-45 minutes. Dr. Len recommends changing up the mode workout to workout, especially if you have several favorite cardio activities.
And if you forget all this, simply recite the Kymberly mantra: “Go as hard as you can, as long as you can, as often as you can.” I hear the sizzle of calorie burning already!
Kymberly Williams-Evans, MA
Cardio exercise has officially moved into the number one spot for “the best thing you can do for your brain” (AARP Bulletin, Get Moving for a Healthy Brain, Sept 2013, pgs 12-13). Take that crossword puzzles, foreign languages, and musical instruments! (Also touted as great vehicles to boost brain power, but downshifted out of first place given the latest research).
If you want to keep smart, cut your risk of Alzheimer’s in half, repair brain cell damage, and basically grow a bigger brain, you’ve got to dance, baby, dance! Face facts midlifers and baby boomers — if you do not eke out at least 150 minutes of cardio per week, your brain actually shrinks every year post 40, year after sedentary year.
But if you want to increase your brain size and capability — cue harps and trumpets — then find a way to work in about 22 aerobic minutes each day. Or 50 minutes three times a week. Or 75 minutes twice a week. I can do this math for you because I boosted my brain teaching step class and walking my dogs. We’re easy around here how you get to the total and new studies support that ease. Sure walking for weight loss is wonderful (read our post on what walking can do for you). Walking for brain gain is even more powerful and impactful! Or try dancing, swimming, getting on a treadmill, biking, hiking, gardening even (could this be any easier? No I am not going to include watching Dancing With the Stars on this list even though I admit total fanaticism for the show.) It really does not take much time or effort to succeed with a brain fitness program.
Let me stress again how powerful movement is for your brain — each and every time you exercise, you get a bigger hippocampus (that’s sexy talk for the post 50 crowd); you stimulate the growth of new neurons; you cut your risk of dementia by 60 percent. Can I get a rah rah here with a pom pom thrown in please?
As Dr. Michael Luan, a friend and expert on Conscious Movement puts it, “We exercise to become better humans. Conscious Movement evolves your brain. The body is your ultimate tool for success, and we all have the potential for greatness. Success with your body creates success with your career, relationships, and ultimately, your life.” The better your brain, the better your life, wouldn’t you say?
Movement will improve your focus, increase your mood, enhance your decision-making processes, help your ability to plan, regenerate brain cells, help your memory, and basically outsmart all those young people who can’t believe how sharp you are for a person your age.
ACTION: Improve your brain and body at least twice a week when you subscribe to our blog. Enter your email and claim your free bonus while you’re at it.
Kymberly Williams-Evans, MA
We just spent a few nights there, and managed to relax and be active simultaneously. The Oaks at Ojai is a small, family-owned spa right in the middle of downtown Ojai. Does that mean it’s busy or noisy? Just the opposite, as Ojai is a mellow town of only 8,000 people. Our totally unscientific guess is that 5,000 of them are artists, and the other 3,000 are hikers and bicyclists.Headed to The Oaks at Ojai? We may join you for a walk, swim, bike ride, massage, meal or retail therapy. @OaksSpa Click To Tweet
Skin Authority Fit & Firm Treatments (Fit & Firm for Fun & Fit – perfect)
Bike Riding on a path that leads all the way to the ocean at Ventura
A sunset meditation on Mount Meditation
Fitness classes (ever tried Glow in the Dark Qi Gong?)
Had 3 meals a day prepared to our specific diet
Played Bingo (though we didn’t win the muffins, dang it)
Made new friends
Visited Bart’s Bookstore (which leaves books outdoors at night – you pay on the honor system)
Lost a little weight
Hiked the Valley View Preserve (with absolutely stunning panoramic views)
We even met a woman who was leaving after a 3-week stay. She said she wanted a place to recuperate and make new friends after going through knee surgery and rehab. Once she got there, she didn’t want to leave. So she didn’t.
We didn’t want to leave either, but it was time to go to L.A. to celebrate our mom’s 86th birthday. The drive to L.A. is just over an hour. From where we live in Santa Barbara it’s only a 45 minute drive, so we’ll be back. Heck, I need to put my brand new bike lock to use, though I never actually locked my bike while we were there. I just parked it in the private patio garden at our bungalow.
Alexandra Williams, MA
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We were not paid to write this post. We were invited guests of the Oaks at Ojai for 2 nights, and boy did we appreciate their hospitality. So much so that I even taught the guests the “Thriller” dance (insert wolf howl right here).
Kymberly Williams-Evans, MA and Alexandra Williams, MA
To live more comfortably in your body, what can you do (besides whine, whimper, act curmudgeonly, and grab the stairwell when going down)?
Hang onto your bandage wraps and therapeutic creams as we dispense fit pro advice about ways to exercise cardiovascularly when your joints are HOLLERING!
Kymberly: Hey, I said it first!
Alexandra: I thought it first!
K and A: We thought it at the same time. Whoa! Twin telepathy. ……. Ahh haa haaa made you look.
K: Now that you wonder whether we really do have twin telepathy, I can tell you what Alexandra was thinking. Nada. But I am thinking that getting into a pool and doing laps or taking aqua classes are the best options. The more of your body that is under water, the less stress on your joints. If pools are not a realistic option for whatever reason – no pool handy, hate to get wet, you only wear a bathing suit in the privacy of your bathtub–whatever–then we have to come up with more clever solutions.
A: Try cardio machines that take some of the load off your lower body joints, such as indoor cycling, rowing, elliptical machines (as opposed to stair steppers or treadmills). Take advantage of a group spin or row class. For one, you can have the instructor fit the equipment to you, so you are in protective alignment. You want to be sure that the seat of your cycle is set high enough for your leg length, for example. Nag, nag, nag.
K: Add in some resistance training or Pilates twice a week. Strengthen the muscles around painful joints so that the muscles bear the brunt of the load.
Perhaps invest in a certified personal trainer or one-on-one licensed body worker (such as a Feldenkreis teacher, CranioSacral therapist, or MELT trainer). Get your form, equipment settings, shoes, stretching plan all checked by a professional. And I don’t mean us. We’re way too busy bickering about who suggested the pool first.
A: Find a local gym with a “seniors” program (a euphemism for “anyone older than myself”) and take a group low-impact class. The variety of movement will decrease the potential for pain from repetitive stress. Unless you take my sister’s class – in which case your pain will increase tremendously. Got the last word.
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Comfortably move your way to our YouTube channel for short videos that will improve your active aging adventure! Have you subscribed yet to our blog? Please follow us on google+Alexandra and +Kymberly, on Twitter: AlexandraFunFit and KymberlyFunFit and Instagram: KymberlyFunFit and AlexandraFunFit.
Kymberly Williams-Evans, MA
I was soaking in the tub after teaching two exercise classes, turning the pages of my Spring 2014 issue of National Parks magazine, when what do I come across? A motivating article by Dr. Daphne Miller, entitled “A Prescription for Nature,” all about how going outdoors enhances your health.
“Pfffftt,” you say. “Where’s the news in that?” Well, when was the last time your doctor prescribed an outdoor jaunt?
According to the article, “…exposure to green space can affect (y)our health just as much as other lifestyle factors traditionally covered in a medical visit.” Living close to a park or garden is associated with reduced body mass and lowered stress. Also, older adults in greener neighborhoods have greater longevity. As Dr. Miller states, “our collective open spaces, from our vast national parks to our tiny city parks, act as a giant health reservoir.”
I’m all for diving into that reservoir. How about you? How about my sister, who announced (after being bitten by a ground wasp during a lake walk a few years ago) that she planned to “visit nature in a museum from now on!” Uh oh! i(Note from Alexandra: It’s all true. I didn’t even know there was such a thing as a ground wasp. I still walk outside every day, but I bring along a flamethrower in case of wasps)
As a group fitness instructor, I advocate and adore indoor workouts. Yet, the idea of living longer and leaner with less stress by being a nature champion is also enticing! Ok, I also love being outdoors, and walk my dog almost every day.
Imagine checking in for your annual physical to get minutes spent exercising outdoors and in- noted on your chart along with your pulse, blood pressure, smoking and drinking habits, height, and weight.
Research convincingly shows that nature has a significant beneficial influence on our well-being. Need more back-up to get up and out? Cast your eye on these Fun Fit Facts. (please also pin them!)
Go outside this post by clicking on the pictures. Where will they take you?
Of course you’ll need something to wear on your walks. Via our affiliate links from Adidas (we will receive a small commission if you make a purchase after clicking on the link), today through August 10th, you can get $20 off all orders over $100 + free shipping! Now’s your chance to stock up on all of your favorites on adidas.com without the guilt of loading up your cart since it all ships free! Sale ends August 10. Promo Code: ADIDAS20
Then journey our way:
2) Pick up the phone or email us to book us to speak at your next meeting or conference. Call (805) 403-4338 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Photos Credits: taken by my fine self with my cell phone.
READERS: Where’s your favorite outdoor place or activity? When did you last go there or do that? Huh? huh?
Kymberly Williams-Evans, MA
So what news about boosting your brain through exercise did we glean from our brush with an intellectual celebrity?
(Ok, Dr. Ratey actually said “anti-aging,” but we are not against aging. We are for aging as actively as possible, so I reworded the phrase. Literary license, people!). Dr. Ratey stressed this heavily in his book and presentation: nothing compares to the effect of movement when it comes to living life “younger” as nothing makes our brain cells work harder than exercise.
While we may not see results right away from our workouts, we reap MENTAL benefits within moments. The super important neurotransmitter is BDNF — Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor. BDNF activates learning when we perform cardio. As Dr. Ratey (aka, my BFF and dinner buddy “John”) says, “BDNF is a crucial biological link between thought, emotions, and movement. Our neurotransmitters offer ‘cerebellum training’ during and after each aerobic bout.” That clear-headed feeling we get from working out is literally a head full of enhanced brain power and activity. Dr. Ratey offered this “insta-result” fact as a way to motivate ourselves to move more.
New experiences and challenges enhance our cognitive skills (be smarter, stave off the odds of dementia, keep our memory strong, add brain matter and circuitry throughout life). Maybe we take a walk that goes left instead of right; or we change up our morning routine somehow. Perhaps we add intensity or complexity to an action we are already performing. Apparently the experiences we can create for ourselves to stay mentally strong do not have to be huge or entirely new. Even small challenges rewire our brains for the better. If you are in a workout rut, snap out of it (to quote Cher’s character in Moonstruck).
All mammals play, so the more we can bring joy and playfulness into our workouts, the better off our brains will be. At the very least, play reduces stress. Lower chronic stress levels are related to a healthier life and stronger brain. In short, make exercise fun. Does this mantra from Fun and Fit sound familiar? If your current routine A) doesn’t exist; B) is not fun; C) is ho-hum routine, then challenge yourself to try new activities until you find the ones you enjoy. Like how you can combine tips 3 and 4 here?
Those were the highlights from Dr. Ratey’s talk. If you are keen to get even more keen, read Spark, ideally right after working out… at Rancho la Puerta! That would be a really smart move!
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Kymberly: Not liking to stab in the dark–poke, poke, scream of pain!– I will say I must guess into the wilderness as to the reasons for the different effects. One guess as to what happened was you powered your downstroke of the bike with your quads and your upstroke with your glutes and hamstrings. Most likely you also had your toes closer to your body than your heel (flexed foot or dorsiflexion), especially on the downstroke. That means your calf was not involved that much as it was in slight extension. Your friend most likely had her toes pointed away from her (plantarflexion) throughout the work, which is very common, though not ideal. Therefore her calf was in slight contraction. Is one way wrong? Depends on your goal. But generally it is considered good form and far more powerful to work as you did and NOT to put the load into the calf.
Alexandra: I’m not sure if you’re saying it was a recumbent bike or if you just like to lower the heck out of your seat on the indoor cycle, but we’ll start at recumbent;
Was your friend’s seat farther back than yours, relative to leg length? Because if her seat was way back, she might have had to point her toes a lot (back to plantarflexion) to reach the pedals, which would put her into a calf contraction – and not the kind that leads to cute little baby moos.
If you were on an upright bike with a really low seat, that could also contribute to the different results, depending on whether your toes were up or down.
Were you a good witch or a bad witch? But then, if your seat was too low, your knees will hurt soon anyway, so who cares about the calf ache?
What has been your experience with indoor cycles and your muscles? How pointy are your toes when you cycle?
Photo credits: Creative Commons